On Aug. 19, Unifor President Jerry Dias invited Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as keynote speaker to begin the union’s 2019 convention in Quebec City. This is less than a year after the Liberals forced anti-union “back-to-work” legislation on 50,000 postal workers with CUPW, and in a year when Dias himself sold out thousands of workers in Oshawa to General Motors Company.
Trudeau and his party have spent their entire term serving big business at the expense of working class people. In 2017, they gave $375 million in interest-free loans to Bombardier, to which the company responded with layoffs and CEO pay raises. In 2018, they spent a whopping $4.5 billion to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan. According to the Energy Economics Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the federal government’s purchase of the pipeline gave Kinder Morgan a 637 per cent return on investment. In addition to these measures, billions more in loans that the Conservative Harper government dished out to big corporations during their term have been written off by the Liberals. No working class person can dream of having their mortgage loan forgiven or rewarded in such a manner, yet Trudeau has been happy to do so for his corporate buddies.
Other speakers at the convention included Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and former Liberal senator Roméo Dallaire. Freeland for her part has maintained corporate interests internationally, watching over Canadian mining companies in Latin America that regularly exploit workers and hire mercenaries to assassinate labour leaders in order to protect their profits. Freeland was handpicked by Trudeau to campaign alongside U.S. President Donald Trump to overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected government in a coup, as well as supporting dictatorships in Haiti and Honduras, warmongering against Iran and opposing basic human rights for Palestinians.
With such a track record, you would think that our labour leaders would be firmly opposed to the Liberals. Unfortunately, Dias has on rose-tinted glasses. As Dias said in an interview with Maclean’s magazine on Aug. 22:
If you take a look at the Kathleen Wynne government or the Trudeau government, I think it’s clear these Liberals are much different than the Liberals of old. The Liberals have tacked more centre-left. I think Kathleen Wynne was one of the most progressive leaders we’ve ever had in this country.
The fact that Dias thinks the most unpopular premier in Canada who lost to Doug Ford due to years of austerity and corruption was progressive shows disturbing illusions in the Liberals. The Liberals both federally and provincially have had a long tradition of campaigning left with the appearance of progressive policies, but governing from the right when in power.
By inviting the Liberals to spearhead the convention, Dias has presented a clear and shameful dereliction to fulfill his role as a representative of 300,000 Unifor members. This is not what working class leadership looks like. The methods of class collaboration that Dias and his friends at the top of Unifor represent must be fought against and Dias must be thrown out. Rank-and-file workers of Unifor and any leaders that genuinely represent workers’ interests over the interests of the bosses must denounce Jerry Dias and provide an alternative. That alternative is to elect true working class leaders in our unions and build a militant labour movement that fights for a united, socialist fightback against the bosses.