The ninth Unifor B.C. Regional Council opened with remarks from Alec Dan from the Musqueum band. His family, the Wolf Pack dancers, performed a welcome song and Dan described the history of the territory on which the Council was being held.
The first order of business was Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle’s report to delegates. He outlined some of the regressive policies that provincial parties like B.C. United (formerly the B.C. Liberals) and B.C. Conservatives are attempting to import from other jurisdictions and encouraged members to stay active in politics to defend progressive values in the workplace and elsewhere.
After listing the John Horgan and now David Eby government’s pro-worker changes, he vowed support for the BCNDP’s upcoming re-election campaign.
McGarrigle reviewed many of the outstanding collective agreements Unifor locals are bargaining, especially in the transit sector. He mentioned the historic gains made by hospitality and gaming locals under a soft pattern Unifor has established in the sector.
B.C.’s job market is not without its struggles, and McGarrigle outlined what Unifor is doing to fight for members and communities in a forestry sector in crisis.
He concluded with a call to action for delegates to keep up the fight: “Workers must strategize, organize, and fight for what we need, just as we have done for generations. In Canada and elsewhere, a renewed sense of militancy among workers in the face of lingering workplace safety concerns, chronically low wages and high inflation, is inspiring others to demand better from their employers, and to hit picket lines if necessary.”
Harry Bains, B.C. Minister of Labour, congratulated delegates for working so closely with the government to improve access to unions and make improvements to employment standards. Bains was especially passionate in supporting Unifor’s position that the Workers’ Safety Insurance Board surplus belongs to workers, and not to employers.
After the Minister’s talk about the gains in the province, BCRC delegates took to the streets of downtown Vancouver to hold a rally demanding the federal Liberals finally introduce and enact robust anti-scab legislation.
After lunch, delegates heard from National Secretary-Treasurer Len Poirier, who spoke to the important function of the strike and defence fund. He stressed that local unions should continue to strengthen internal democratic structures, both to keep members’ priorities top of mind but also to drive engagement for the more difficult moments in bargaining.
Poirier also took a moment to review the important human rights work that Unifor undertakes, from taking action in the Tears to Hope relays to Unifor Canadian Community Fund and Social Justice Fund donations.
B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jennifer Whiteside joined the Council to speak about the toxic drug crisis and its disproportionate impact on working people in construction, transportation, and heavy machinery operation. She thanked Unifor for supporting the government’s initiatives to get help to workers and encouraged rank-and-file health and safety advocates to keep up their work.
The first day of council concluded with a workshop from Executive Assistant to the National Secretary-Treasurer Sari Sairanen about Unifor’s campaign to put workers at the centre of the transition associated with greening the economy. She encouraged delegates to help ensure every single member has the opportunity to fill out the climate task force’s survey.