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Unifor splits with Canadian Labour Congress over workers' right to choose union

Last Updated Jan 18, 2018 at 6:20 am PST

Unifor President Jerry Dias makes his way to speak to the press in Toronto on Friday, August 25, 2017. The largest private sector union in Canada says it is splitting with the Canadian Labour Congress over disagreements about the rights of workers to choose what union should represent them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The largest private sector union in Canada said Wednesday it is splitting with the Canadian Labour Congress over issues which include disagreements about the rights of workers to choose what union should represent them.

In a notice posted on its website, Unifor national president Jerry Dias and Quebec director Renaud Gagne said the congress has also been less than supportive of their concern about American-based unions “trampling on the rights” of workers.

Unifor said its national executive board voted unanimously Tuesday to discontinue its membership in the CLC, the national lobby group for Canada’s labour movement, effective immediately.

“In light of the ongoing lack of action and will by the affiliates of the Canadian Labour Congress to address the aggressive and undemocratic tactics shown by U.S.-based unions towards workers in Canadian locals, a decision was made by the leadership of our union … to discontinue Unifor’s affiliation and membership,” the notice said.

“Our union is opposed to any union that threatens, harasses, intimidates or silences workers for simply asserting their democratic rights to choose a union or for the purpose of quelling dissent within the local.”

In a separate letter to CLC president Hassan Yussuff posted on Unifor’s website, Dias said Unifor’s request to join a CLC committee studying the issue of workers’ rights to switch unions has been ignored, adding it’s “unfathomable” that the largest private-sector union wouldn’t be part of that work.

He also said that the CLC has failed to deal with two instances of U.S.-based unions interfering in elections for Canadian union local leadership.

In a statement posted on the CLC website, Yussuff said he was “deeply disappointed” by the Unifor decision.

He said an emergency meeting was held Wednesday evening where affiliate unions “reaffirmed their support” for the CLC.

“In turn, I stressed that as CLC president, I am committed to resolving this issue and reuniting Canada’s labour movement, and that I take my responsibility to do that very seriously,” Yussuff said.

The CLC’s largest public union member, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, earlier called on the two organizations to patch up their differences.

“Trade unionists have always been stronger when we work together, and CUPE and the rest of the CLC’s affiliates will continue to work together to defend our members’ interests and build a better society for all,” it stated.

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