COPE SEPB First National Mid-Term Conference

Some 200 delegates, guests and staff attended
the COPE SEPB First National Mid-Term Conference February 3rd and
4th in Ottawa, Ontario.

On the agenda for the Conference were the subjects of women and
politics and union organizing. Speakers included Canadian Labour
Congress Secretary-Treasurer and great friend to COPE SEPB Brother
Hassan Yussuff, Peggy Nash, NPD MP and NDP leadership candidate and
Sylvain Schetagne, Senior Economist at the CLC.

Hassan spoke first to the Conference attendees highlighting the
dangers posed by the Harper government to unions, their members and
all working Canadians by enacting his hurtful and retrograde right
wing agenda.

He also addressed the issue of pensions and
the ongoing CLC campaign and lobbying efforts
to improve public pensions in order to help provide a decent life
for working Canadians in their retirement years. He reminded the
delegates that rather than improving pensions Prime Minister Harper
has instead most recently talked about increasing retirement age to
67 which will only weaken pensions for Canadians.

Peggy Nash, NDP MP and leadership candidate was the next speaker.
She spoke to the Conference from Vancouver through Skype and
addressed the issue of women – or rather the lack of them – in
politics. A long-time activist and staffer with the Canadian Auto
Workers Union (CAW), Sister Nash described her own background and
efforts as a woman in politics and how important it is to
collectively rethink and redefine what it means to be a leader
since our society associates leadership with male qualities and
male qualities with leadership.

The other subject that the Conference addressed was union
organizing.

Sylvain Schetagne, Senior Economist with the CLC addressed the
Conference pointing out that we must all work harder to increase
union density. While we have more members than ever before in
absolute numbers, union density – that is the percentage of workers
unionized – has continued to drop. The workforce has changed and we
must adapt to that change to reverse this trend. Sylvain told the
Conference that there are now proportionally more women and more
people from diverse ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds than
ever before and that the baby boomer generation is being replaced
by other groups of workers.

Workshops attended by the delegates to the Conference focused first
on the issues of women in politics and how to overcome the barriers
preventing more women from becoming involved in politics. Concrete
strategies and solutions such as leaders who step forward as
mentors, wider and more affordable childcare, instilling
self-confidence in young women, support of spouses and partners in
equitable, sharing relationships were some of the ideas that came
out of the workshops.

Workshops then looked at organizing in our new environment and how
to better bring the benefits of trade unionism to the unorganized.

This first COPE SEPB Mid-Term Conference was a great opportunity
for officers and activists from our Locals across Canada to come
together and discuss two important issues for our
organization.