OTTAWA – POLITICS – This week the striking workers at Bombardier in Thunder Bay ratified a hard won new collective agreement that ended a nine week strike, and Tom Mulcair and Canada’s New Democrats launched our 2015 election campaign with our first platform commitment.
First off, I would congratulate all the members of Unifor #1075 who fought and won a tough fight for fair wages and a secure retirement for all workers at their Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay. The decision to strike was not an easy one for these members who for nine weeks collected strike pay that was about one-third of their regular pay. Family budgets were stretched and many took on secondary jobs, but in the end the victory was worth the struggle.
The Bombardier strike was a classic case of workers fighting for better pay and a secure pensions for all versus a company that has had its fair share of struggles over the years and that is always seeking ways to reduce its production costs to increase its profits. In the last contract negotiations in 2011, as the economy was still reeling from a deep recession, the then CAW workers made some concessions to the company with the expectation that as economic conditions improved they could win some back from the company. Unfortunately, and even though the company was sitting on a full $3.7 billion worth of new orders, the expected concessions did not come this time around.
In this round of negotiations the company took an even harder line by proposing a two-tier pension plan which protected the more secure defined benefit plans held by older workers while eliminating it for all hires after 2010. It would have been easy for the older workers to simply say ‘yes’ to the new proposal since their retirement needs were largely taken care of, but they didn’t. Instead, they stood and they fought for the newer members and for the principles of equality and fairness.
The solidarity of Unifor #1075 was quite impressive, with the original strike vote being supported by 99 percent of members, a mid-strike proposal from the company being rejected by 80 percent, and the final agreement being supported by 85 percent of members. The solidary of these workers paid off in the end, and I congratulate both the members of Unifor #1075 and Bombardier on this new agreement. I wish nothing but the best for both moving forward.
The other big bit of news this week was the kick-off of the 2015 New Democrat election campaign. I spent three days last week in Edmonton with my New Democrat colleagues as we made plans for the fall session of parliament and developed our plan to win your trust and support in the next election. Specific planks and costing will be rolled over the next year, but you can expect to see responsible and progressive policies from a mature political party that will show it is ready to govern.
Immediately following our meetings in Edmonton Tom Mulcair unveiled our first official platform commitment; the reintroduction of a federal minimum wage that will reach $15 an hour by 2019. It is worth nothing that the new minimum wage will not apply to all Canadian workers however, only those working in industries regulated by the federal government.
In all, more than 800,000 Canadians (six percent of all workers) are employed by more than 12,000 enterprises in federally regulated industries, and our research suggests that more than 100,000 workers would see their pay increase to the new minimum wage. This proposal for a new minimum wage reflects the modern economic reality faced by hard working Canadians, many of whom are struggling to raise a family on a single income, and our belief that anyone who works full-time should not be forced to live in poverty. For a full list of federally regulated industries, you can visit http://www.labour.gc.ca/eng/regulated.shtml
So it was a busy last week of the summer. Next week Parliament resumes sitting and the Mike Duffy case finally heads to court. Should be a doozy.
John Rafferty MP