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Thomas Mulcair says unions must adapt to new populations and sectors

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Union delegates from across the province listened to NDP leader Thomas Mulcair when he addressed the 56th Convention of the BC Federation of Labour on Monday. (James Goldie photo)
Union delegates from across the province listened to NDP leader Thomas Mulcair when he addressed the 56th Convention of the BC Federation of Labour on Monday. (James Goldie photo)

Reported by James Goldie

Big changes are underway within the BC Federation of Labour, in terms of the organization’s leadership and how it will work with the next generation of workers.

After 15 years as the federation’s leader, Jim Sinclair is not running for re-election at this week’s convention, which has brought together approximately 2,000 union delegates from across the province.

Aaron Ekman, the Northern Regional Coordinator of the BC Government and Services Employees Union, is a candidate for secretary-treasurer.

Unions must adapt to changing workforce

Ekman said he predicts some newer sectors that are currently non-union, such as the video game industry, will change as its workforce ages and has children.

He said it’s important that the federation is able change and meet new demands.

“We have to find new ways to extend unionization to those folks as well,” he said. “They’re not able to expect to be on the same shop floor working around the same folks for more than a generation like we’ve had with more of the traditional manufacturing sectors.”

Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party, touched on this theme of flexibility and openness to new sectors when he addressed the federation delegates after lunch on Monday.

“Over the next few years the market in the world for green renewable energies and their technologies will be a two trillion dollar market. We’re not even there. We’re not

even on the map,” he said.

“Can you imagine if we used some of the energy that’s being spent right now in Canada on their causes, to actually start creating that next generation of well-paying jobs? We would be part of that market.”

Young workers involvement in unions low

Nicole Jarvis, substitute teacher and delegate for the BC Teachers’ Federation, admitted that young worker involvement in unions is currently low.

“But I’m optimistic that that’s changing,” she said.

Jarvis said that the union recognizes the strengths of younger members too.

“I teach social media [workshops] because I grew up in it and it’s something that comes very natural to me,” she said. “I have communication skills, I have social media skills.” Other people might have mediation skills. Other people might have graphic design skills.”

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