Dias, Unifor execs should heed the call for transparency

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Unifor has heard demands for more transparency for years. The former Conservative government under then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanded the union open its books and show exactly how much money it spent on political campaigns.

And while the Conservatives in 2015 passed a bill that would have forced unions to disclose political spending, the Liberals promptly repealed the law when they formed the government in 2016.

But now calls for more transparency are coming from Unifor’s rank and file. About 1,540 members have signed a petition demanding that the union post full details of tentative agreements online before a ratification vote is held.

Members must have the right to look at, digest and formulate questions on the document that will determine their wages, benefits and working conditions for the next three or four years. This cannot be done in any meaningful way in the current ratification process,” said Rebecca Keetch, a laid-off worker at General Motors’ Oshawa, Ont., plant.

Ford Canada employees will be the first to vote on a new deal Sunday. FCA would be next.

In the United States, the United Auto Workers posts its “white book,” which details in full changes to the contract and agreements between the union and automaker, in the days leading up to a ratification vote. Unifor hands out a leaflet of highlights — not all changes within the contract — to members just prior to a vote. It doesn’t always note concessions or modified contract language deep within the tentative agreement.

Keetch called the Unifor leaflets “extremely important.”

“But how can you know what questions you need to ask when you’re handed a sheet just before you go in?” she asked.

She’s right. It would be like casting a ballot for your MP without knowing their respective party’s entire platform. It’s why political parties post them online. For free. So voters can fully educate themselves, should they want to, before they make an important decision.

But Unifor President Jerry Dias has dismissed the proposal and petition, even though he said on the Sept. 4 edition of the Automobile News | tomobile.org Canada Conversations podcast the union could easily post the entire tentative contract online for all to see. But it won’t.

“I’m not going to let a handful of people steer the ship,” Dias said. “People know if it’s a good deal or bad deal. I don’t have to send it home in full document.”

When I asked Dias if there’s any harm in posting the deal online prior to the vote he said, “There isn’t any.”

So why not do it? Answer the call.

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