BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix Kicks Off MoveUP’s Job Steward Seminar

March 8, 2013

This year’s MoveUP Job Steward Seminar – with a theme of “Taking Charge: Our Worksites and Our Province” – kicked off in Vancouver this morning with a speech from BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix, taking time out of his busy pre-election schedule.

Dix began by outlining some of the challenges we face in BC, including persistent inequality and public disillusionment about the political process, only reinforced by the recent scandal around the BC Liberals’ leaked “multicultural outreach” plans.

Dix expressed frustration about the way reporters tend to frame the issue as if it’s something that’s bad for the Liberals and good for the NDP:

“The truth is, it’s terrible, period, because it increases public cynicism about political life…It increases cynicism about politics at a time when we need people to be involved in the political process.”

Next, Dix outlined his vision for what a BC NDP government would look like and do differently.

“We’re going to say what we’re going to do and how we’re going to pay for things,” Dix committed, “We’re not going to run personal attack ads…because an election won on that basis doesn’t give you a mandate to do anything.”

Dix also mentioned some key priorities, including investing in post-secondary education and skills training, making sure some carbon tax revenues get reinvested in public transit, and “making sure that our crown corporations are put to the service of British Columbians and not to private interests”.

Finally, he urged MoveUP members to get involved in the provincial election leading up to election day on May 14.

“What we have to do together and I urge you to get involved – I hope for the NDP but get involved in the debate even if it’s not for the NDP – we have to compete in our workplaces, we have to compete in our communities, we have to go door-to-door to talk to our neighbours. We have to make sure people vote in this election…We need your help. I need your help,” Dix said.

After Adrian Dix, President David Black awarded the 2013 Ardell Brophy Award to ICBC Return-to-Work Coordinator and MoveUP Board Member Karin Cirez. Cirez has been active in the union, politics, and her community for over 15 years.

Accepting the award, Cirez thanked Ardell Brophy for her mentorship and the lessons she imparted when Cirez first became a job steward. Brophy showed Cirez how being a steward is more than just doing the important work for members in the workplace.

“It meant taking your union values and your union principles and taking them out into the community where you live and reaching out to everybody,” said Cirez.

Closing off the first part of the  morning, MoveUP President David Black spoke generally about the role of job stewards given the current state of our union and the labour movement.

Looking at our strengths, Black noted MoveUP has a defense fund that is among the largest in Canada on a per capita basis, which allows us to defend our members in case of a dispute, as well as collective agreements that are “the envy of the labour movement” and staff that combine experience and innovation.

However, Black noted challenges we face, including increased litigation and procedural delays that put strain on our staff and frustrate members trying to resolve grievances. There are also challenges around organizing under an unfriendly provincial government and Labour Code, as well as serious threats that the federal government might pass even more anti-union legislation.

To confront these challenges, Black let participants know that MoveUP is beginning an audit of the organization in order to improve what we’re doing now and how we’re structured. The union will be looking for frank and unfiltered input from members, officers and staff and input will be confidential.

In addition, MoveUP is continuing to increase training opportunities for stewards “to take on even greater leadership roles within their workplace, to create opportunities for our paid staff to bargain better agreements and organize new members, making our union stronger overall.”

To conclude, Black echoed Adrian Dix’s call for members to get involved, particularly in the coming provincial election:

“We all, everyone in this room, all the members we represent, our families and communities, need to get involved and stand up for ourselves, stand up for the middle class and stand up for our communities.”