Instead of Mine Mill Local 598/CAW, the local will now be known as Mine Local 598/Unifor, after the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP).
The union's president, Richard Paquin, said the only other union that was able to retain its original name was the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union.
“That's good for us,” he said. “It means that Unifor really appreciates the history of Mine Mill, and appreciates our request to keep our name in the new name.”
A delegation of about 30 people from Local 598 attended Unifor's founding convention on the Labour Day weekend.
During the convention, which was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, both CAW and CEP voted to disband, and then came together to form Unifor, electing Jerry Diaz as the union's first national president.
The 3,000 people at the convention also staged a protest against American telecommunications giant Verizon's plans to expand to Canada. Ironically, just a few days later, the company announced it won't be moving north.
“I think everybody had a great time there,” Paquin said. “It was electrifying.”
He said he thinks the new union will be able to better protect workers' rights.
Because Unifor represents 305,000 workers in 20 different sectors of the economy — making it the largest private-sector union in the country — it will have an enhanced ability to lobby the government, Paquin said.
He said he was interested to speak with people in the forestry and oil and gas sectors as the founding convention, and hear about their issues, as these sectors were not involved with CAW.
The union's newly-elected national president, Jerry Diaz, has also stated his intention to acquire new members.
“That's always a big goal for everybody, because we strongly believe everybody should have some protection,” said Richard Paquin, president of Mine Mill Local 598/CAW.
“The employment standards act and the labour laws are very minimal. It offers very low protection for the average Canadian.”
He said Local 598 is always looking for new members. Paquin said there's also a few small former CEP chapters in the area that may want to join Local 598/Unifor.
Unifor has also created a new system where people who aren't yet unionized have the ability to affiliate themselves with one of the union's local chapters. These groups would be called community chapters.
This is the first system of its kind in Canada and perhaps the world, Paquin said.
“You'd have a voice at union activities,” he said. “You'd also have access to tons of material and assistance in order to help you either fight cases or injustice in your own workplaces.”
When asked if the merger will give Local 598 more bargaining clout in negotiations, Paquin said he's not sure.
Local 598 represents workers at Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations, a Glencore company, which took over Xstrata Nickel earlier this year.
“Basically for us, I don't think it's going to be much of a change,” Paquin said. “We've been successful at Xstrata since 2007. I don't foresee that changing.”