Chris Buckley addressed delegates during Session 2 of the ETFO 2018 Annual Meeting.
Chris has been the President of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), Canada’s largest provincial labour federation, since 2015.
A lifelong trade unionist and social justice advocate, Chris Buckley has dedicated himself to improving the lives of every worker in Ontario. He is the former President of Unifor Local 222 in Oshawa and chair of the GM Master Bargaining Committee, where he led negotiations with General Motors through four rounds of talks and spearheaded a 12-day blockade of the General Motors Canadian headquarters to stop the Oshawa truck plant closure and provoke the government to make ‘Made in Canada’ a principle of public policy.
As President of the OFL, Chris has made it a point of reaching out to every union in the province to join Ontario’s house of labour and mobilize with our community partners to defend public services, reverse rising inequality and ensure that every job in the province is a pathway out of poverty.
Chris Buckley made a number of points to delegates:
- He thanked ETFO for the opportunity to address Annual Meeting delegates and thanked ETFO’s 83,000 members for everything they do in the province for students each and every day.
- He thanked ETFO for the important role it plays in the labour movement, and specifically thanked ETFO Vice-Presidents Nancy Lawler and Monica Rusnak for their work as OFL representatives.
- He noted that it is never easy being part of the labour movement, and it especially will not easy over the next four years.
- Buckley talked about his ultimate goal, which is to ensure every union in Ontario is a member of the OFL.
- Beyond working to improve the lives of union members, the OFL has initiated or been part of many campaigns that help all workers, whether or not they are part of a union. For example OFL has lobbied to get all workers the resources they need through workers’ compensation when they are injured.
- OFL has also taken responsibility to make sure that when Ontario’s students graduate, they have good jobs waiting for them. Many young people are graduating to part-time employment and contract jobs without benefits, and are working two or three jobs to make ends meet. These young people want to be independent and start their lives but they can’t. That’s wrong, says Buckley – a society like Canada should leave no citizens behind. That’s why OFL made the “Make it Fair” campaign the largest campaign in its history. Labour laws in Ontario that hadn’t been address in over 25 years were strengthened last fall through the passage of Bill 148. Bill 148 improved employment standards and increased the minimum wage.
- OFL campaigns and labour campaigns in general make a difference for everyone. At the federal level, the labour movement has improved CPP for every person in the country, whether or not they are in a union. Buckley noted that labour organizations have been able to get a ban on asbestos in the workplace for everyone, union and non-union.
- Over 3.5 million Canadians cannot afford their medications and having to make a decision to buy food or life-saving drugs. One of organized labour’s current campaigns involves establishing a national pharmacare programme and convincing the government that a national pharmacare plan is the right thing to do.
- Over 78,000 seniors in Ontario are in long-term care facilities, observed Buckley. They are our parents, grandparents and loved ones who helped build our province. They deserve some loving care during the last days of their lives, which is why OFL is promoting Bill 33, which will ensure that all seniors receive four hours minimum care every day of their life.
- The labour movement made real gains through Bill 148 but, as of June 7th, our world changed in Ontario. While we did elect a record number of NDP MPPs, that election resulted in a Progressive Conservative government. Our victory around the minimum wage for 1.7 million Ontario workers (many of them non-unionized) is now threatened by the new government.
- Bill 148 is under attack and we know we are going to travel a rocky road over the next four years, but Buckley revealed that OFL has a strategy to take on this challenge which will be revealed in September. That strategy involves, among other things, educating members, mobilizing members, talking to the people in the community and taking to our friends and neighbours about how we can do better in this province.
Buckley concluded his remarks to delegates by noting that nothing worth having comes easy but that now, more than ever, unity and solidarity will be the key to our success across the province.