Wearing “Stephen Harper Hates Me” buttons, union members voiced their opposition to both the federal and provincial governments’ actions in dealing with negotiations at this year’s Labour Day picnic.
More than a hundred people spent the end of their long-weekend at the annual Labour Day picnic on Monday. The picnic, held behind the Labour Centre, offered free food for those in attendance.
The picnic also gave union members a chance to criticize both the federal and provincial governments’ actions for their handling of labour disputes.
Melanie Kelso, chair of the Thunder Bay and District Council Labour Day Picnic Committee, hasn’t forgotten the time that she and many other postal workers were locked out and then legislated back to work.
She called it was a draconian piece of legislation. She said the button that says the Prime Minister hates her sums up her feelings nicely.
She said the province is doing the same thing by trying to legislate teachers and support workers back to with a similar piece of legislation.
“What we want is free collective bargaining,” Kelso said. “When the government puts their hand in it then it’s taking away our rights for free collective bargaining. It is a struggle. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about unions and what unions are all about. Unions are about people. What we do is fight for all workers.”
She said Labour Day is even more important now because it allows people to sit back and reflect on all the accomplishments workers have done.
But Elaine Kerr, president of the Thunder Bay and District Labour Council, said they have to ever vigilant for unions to continue to protect their rights.
Last month the Canadian Auto Workers voted in favour of merging with the Communications, Energy and Paper workers Union of Canada.
Kerr said she expected these kinds of super unions to continue to pop up throughout the years because it will become harder for smaller unions to stand up to both the government and corporations in the future.
“Unions hold the standards high for health and safety, wages, benefits and if (the government) starts cutting our bargaining rights then what happens to the others,” Kerr said.
“I think the way that we’re seeing now is that the unions will be coming together. Instead of each to their own I think we’re going to see the days maybe 20 years ago when all the unions came out strong and together. That’s what the Labour Council is doing – trying to bring everyone together so everyone is speaking at the same table.”
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