CAW president Ken Lawenza
Credits: DAVE ABEL/QMI AGENCY
Via teleconference from Toronto Wednesday, the leaders of the Canadian Autoworkers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) released a report on a merger to create the nation's largest ever union, with 310,000 members in 20 economic sectors.
CEP president David Coles called it a "new union for new times," recognizing the decline of the large industries sector that was once fertile ground for union organizing.
The new union will try to organize freelancers, the self-employed, students and even the unemployed.
About 10% of the revenue, or $50 million, will be devoted to organizing.
A 16-member joint committee has endorsed a merger that will have to be approved by national conventions of both unions before it takes effect in 2013.
The name of the new union has yet to be decided.
With union membership declining across North America, CAW president Ken Lewenza said a new report shows labour's share of the national income has fallen from 63% to 50% over the last 20 years. He said unions are in danger of losing rights won back in the 1940s.
"Worker wages have stagnated over the last three decades, and we are seeing the consequences in growing dissatisfaction, inequality and distrust of government," Lewenza said.
Gaetan Menard of CEP warned the new union will "kick butt," singling out Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.
The Harper government passed legislation to end strikes at Canada Post, CP Rail and Air Canada.
Hudak recently pitched changes to Ontario labour law that would allow workers to opt out of union dues and labour contracts.
The report says the dues of the new union would be set at the current CAW rate of 0.7 % of workers' salary - slightly lower than the current CEP rate.
The new union would also have a $135-million defence fund to support workers who go out on strike.
CAW members will vote on the proposed merger at a convention later this month, and CEP members will decide the issue at a convention in October.