Labour mobilizes for the province it wants

By Joan Wark
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Labour affiliates from across the province met for the 49th Convention of the NS Federation of Labour last week to set labour’s agenda for the next two years.

The convention wrapped up on November 8th with a commitment to carrying out an ambitious action plan designed to mobilize its 90,000 members. Danny Cavanagh was acclaimed as president of the organization for a second term.

Cavanagh says delegates welcomed 13,000 new members as the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union made history by becoming affiliated for the first time ever. 1200 paramedics in the province also affiliated in the last year as have the 400 plus members at the Chignecto-Central-Regional-School-Board.

“It’s exciting to build our union clout in the province and to put forward an action plan to get the kind of province we want,” he says.

Over 260 delegates empowered the incoming executive to mount an aggressive campaign for a $15 minimum wage and agreed to support a Workers’ Action Centre for young people who do not have a union.

They vowed to take action on a number of social issues including support for victims of intimate partner violence and the LGBTQ community, and to continue to fight for a national Pharmacare program and nationally-funded child care. They pledged support for indigenous communities and in particular for the water protectors at Treaty Camp at Alton Gas. They said they would work to eradicate child poverty and lobby for a raise in income assistance rates.

They promised to stand up for the rights of freelance workers and for federal public servants who have been hurt by the broken Phoenix pay system. They resolved to oppose all attempts to privatize public services provincially or federally, and to do what it takes to protect defined benefit pension plans.

The unions in the province has seen some bad legislation imposed on them and their rights to fair and free collective barging in the province. The unions affected by those bills have stood their ground in defending their members on those controversial bills and are headed to court on a number of those. Legal challenges have been put forward through the Federation on bills 30 and 37 as well as bill 148 to the NS Appeal Court.

One of the highlights of the four-day meeting was the signing of a solidarity pact between the four federations of labour in the Atlantic region. The pact brings together more than 195,000 unionized workers in this part of the country, with the goal of presenting a united voice against austerity governments.

The Action Plan approved by delegates will mean more community-based advocacy and education to strengthen social and political voices at a grass roots level over the next two years.

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