WORKING people are under attack across the country by right-wing forces, and organized labour must stand tall to preserve Canada's middle class, says the head of the country's largest private-sector union.
Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, was in Winnipeg on Monday to rally his local troops. He also met with Premier Greg Selinger.
"It really is about us taking the fight to the workforce," he said.
Dias was elected president of the new union last summer. Unifor was formed by a merger of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.
It boasts over 300,000 members, 13,000 of whom reside in Manitoba.
Dias cited a bill before the Commons that would restrict the bargaining rights of federal civil servants and two federal anti-union private member's bills as examples of how labour is under attack.
Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has also tried to score political points lately by cranking up the union-busting rhetoric, he said.
Calls in Canada for so-called right-to-work legislation already in place in a couple of dozen U.S. states is also a cause for concern, Dias said. Such laws make it difficult for unions to organize. They would also do away with requirements that all workers in unionized workplaces pay dues -- even if they choose not to join the union -- as they still benefit from its services.
In states that have "right to work" laws, 27 per cent of jobs are low-paying, workplace fatality rates are significantly higher and family incomes are $6,500 a year less than where such laws don't exist, Dias said.
-- Larry Kusch