Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Federal NDP Staffers Split with Union That Urged Strategic Voting in Ontario

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Federal NDP Staffers Split with Union That Urged Strategic Voting in Ontario

Article excerpt

NDP parliamentary staff part with union

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OTTAWA - More than 600 New Democrat parliamentary staffers are parting company with the labour union that represents them after it refused to unequivocally endorse the NDP in last month's Ontario election.

It's not simply that federal New Democrats are furious about what they view as Unifor's betrayal of the provincial NDP.

They're also worried that Unifor could similarly refuse to categorically support the NDP in next year's federal election, thereby endangering the staffers' jobs, which the union is supposed to protect.

Exactly who initiated the divorce is a matter of some dispute.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias said the decision to go their separate ways was "absolutely mutual."

"This will be an amicable divorce," Dias told The Canadian Press.

"Their position is they want to belong to a union that has complete, blind loyalty to the party and I understand that ... But the facts are that one local union within Unifor is not going to dictate the politics of an organization of over 300,000 people."

However, Anthony Salloum, president of the local that represents 600 to 700 NDP political aides, said Unifor effectively pushed the staffers out before they could decide whether to leave.

While Unifor is largely supportive of the NDP, Dias said sometimes its priorities are different than those of the party.

In the Ontario election, the priority was stopping Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. Hence, Unifor urged Ontarians to vote for incumbent New Democrats or whichever local candidate -- NDP or Liberal -- was most likely to defeat the Conservative contender.

"The last provincial election was unusual. It's not usually so brazen that you have a Conservative leader that's running on a platform of destroying the trade union movement," Dias said, noting that 800 delegates to a Unifor regional council meeting unanimously called for the union to back strategic voting.

He said there's "no question about it" that the Harper government appears equally committed to destroying the union movement. But whether Unifor will similarly urge Canadians to vote strategically for New Democrats or Liberals to defeat Harper's Conservatives remains to be seen. …

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