Atlantic director post with Unifor will keep former labour federation president in N.L.
Lana Payne will serve as the first Atlantic director of Unifor, a new super-union formed by the merger of two major unions in Canada. — Submitted photo
Lana Payne will serve as one of six top officials for Unifor, the new super-union formed through the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP).
The new full-time post forces Payne to leave her job as president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL), a position she held for the last five years.
“I have to say, it’s been an incredible privilege to be able to do that work,” said Payne. “We have a feisty labour movement in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Payne — who will maintain an office in St. John’s — said she was approached by members of the CAW and CEP about putting her name forward for the Atlantic director position.
After discussing the proposition with her family, she decided to let her name be given consideration.
“I just thought it was an incredible opportunity, given the plans that this bold new union has for the next five to 10 years. It was just too good (and) too much of an opportunity to pass up.”
Payne was elected to the position over the Labour Day weekend at the Unifor founding convention in Toronto. The new union will represent more than 300,000 workers across Canada.
Unifor’s formation is what Payne calls “an act of hope” in the face of threats to the social and economic well-being of Canadians through measures taken by the federal government.
“When you consider the cuts to Employment Insurance, the fact that they’ve raised the age for Old Age Security (from 65 to 67), the way they’ve gone about the temporary foreign worker program and really undermining immigration by doing this, and then we’re seeing a real race to the bottom mentality at the collective bargaining table.”
She said the union will focus on building up social progress and the power of workers in Canada.
Reflecting on her time with the NLFL, Payne said stronger health and safety legislation and justice for workers in low-paying jobs are among some items the organization has helped advance. She also cautioned there remains work to be done.
“We were successful in getting the minimum wage to $10 (per hour) in 2010, and now we’re pushing to get a report that’s sitting on the minister’s desk implemented,” she said.
In what is widely seen to be a prosperous era for Newfoundland and Labrador, Payne said it is important to not lose sight of the need to equitably share the wealth.