Between October 31 and November 3, 2012, over 600 delegates from across Saskatchewan gathered at the Queensbury Convention Centre in Regina for the 57th Annual Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) Convention.
“This time around, there was a real desire among delegates to work together; to stand up and support each other,” said Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region. “We know that the provincial government is already tabling their labour legislation next week, resulting from their 90-day consultation. This just proves the legislation was already written before they did that consultation, and further demonstrates the need for labour to work together to fight back.”
Many of the resolutions debated addressed opposing privatization. Another resolution, calling for SFL to move to a clear language Constitution, will mean big changes for the SFL’s Constitution, but will result in a document that’s easier to read and more accessible to those with literacy issues. Additionally, two resolutions were passed from PSAC including one supporting PSAC’s We Are All Affected campaign and an emergency resolution to support the Protect the Prairie campaign and committment to sign the petition.
The most popular trend among delegates was PSAC’s Harper Hates Me buttons, which were distributed at the PSAC table.
“The buttons were an unbelievable hit,” said Hladun. “Every time I turned around, the table was empty. Everyone wanted one.”
That included delegates taking extras for their families, and MLA’s who loved the campaign and each took a button, though they weren’t allowed to wear it inside the Legislative Building.
Omar Murray, Regional Vice-President for the Union of National Employees (UNE) in Saskatchewan, and a PSAC delegate to the SFL Convention, attended for the first time and was grateful for the opportunity.
“It was marvelous to see all unions working together not only on labour, but also on social justice issues and speaking with one united voice,” said Murray. “This year is an incredibly important time in our history; knowledge and solidarity are two of the most important weapons we have to fight the anti labour sentiment, prevalent with our government of the day.”
Here’s an overview of what happened throughout the week:
Wed. Oct. 31
Convention opened with an emotional tribute to the 53 workers that died on the job in Saskatchewan in the year prior to Convention.
This was followed by a presentation from Howard Willems’ sister, Audrey Berloven. Willems, a retired PSAC member and asbestos activist, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos related cancer of the lungs, two years prior and succumbed to the illness days after Convention. Berloven spoke to delegates about the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (SADAO) and asbestos protection on behalf of her brother.
Barb Byers, Executive Vice-President for the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), presented on Bill C-377 and the attacks on unions and the public service.
Kent Peterson, Saskatchewan Representative for the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), spoke about the importance for the student movement and labour movement to work together.
Thurs. Nov. 1
The day started with a presentation about the CLC’s Labour College of Canada. The four-week intensive program is celebrating it’s 50th year of post-secondary learning for union activists who want to enhance their leadership capacities.
Over lunch, hundreds of union activists filled buses and headed to the province’s Legislative Building to attend a rally on labour rights. Speakers included a young worker from SEIU West who attended the SFL’s Kids Camp several years prior. He spoke about how changes to labour legislation would impact young workers just getting started in their careers. A representative from the Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition spoke about how poverty impacts communities and how the proposed changes to legislation would affect poverty. Kent Peterson and Larry Hubich also spoke.
Fri. Nov. 2
Gill McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, and Sid Ryan, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, each addressed the delegates.
The film Building Solidarity with SFL’s Kids Camp was screened, outlining the importance of the Kids Camp and the positive impact it has on young labour activists. The video isn’t available online, but a DVD copy can be requested by calling the SFL.
Victor Malarek, an investigative reporter for CTV’s W5 and former investigations editor for The Globe and Mail, presented on human trafficking. In his most recent book, The Johns – Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It, Malarek addresses the root cause of human trafficking and the abuse of women and girls: the men who fuel the demand for purchased sex. In his presentation, Malarek discussed the issue and declared that it’s a supply and demand issue, and the responsibility of men to stop buying into it.
Sat. Nov. 3
Elections were held on Saturday, including SFL President, Larry Hubich, Treasurer, Lori Johb, and newly-elected Recording Secretary, Jen Britton. Nancy Johnson was elected as the PSAC Vice President on the SFL Executive Council.
Don Morgan, MLA Saskatoon Southeast and Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, delivered a speech to the hundreds gathered at Convention on Saturday morning.
This video shows PSAC members Audrey Berloven and Karen Zoller, sister and friend, respectively, of Howard Willems, addressing Minister Morgan about asbestos protection. They called on Minister Morgan and the Saskatchewan Party to protect the citizens of Saskatchewan from asbestos and asbestos related illnesses.
Finally, a video showing the presentation of SFL’s Bob Sass Award, honouring Howard Willems for his commitment and hard work to workplace safety, and dedication to the issue of asbestos awareness.