Unite Here invites First Ministers to expand their dinner party - Trade union has ideas and experience to save jobs and grow the economy

    An Open Letter to First Ministers

    TORONTO, Jan. 10 /CNW/ -

    Dear Sirs,

    Tomorrow's First Ministers' dinner called to discuss a wide range of
economic issues has elicited enough culinary allusions to tempt even the
strongest willed New Year's dieter. But as all the nutritional experts will
tell you, healthy living is not just about changing portion sizes or the fad
diet of the day. It is about establishing a complex, considered and
sustainable plan for healthy living and I would suggest the recipe for our
economy coming out Friday night should consider the same.
    As the National Co-Director of UNITE HERE, representing workers in
manufacturing as well as hotels and food service, I am struck that your
current table is set too sparsely, excluding business and labour leaders
alike. If we are to face the economic challenges of 2008 in a way that will
ensure a healthy economy for all Canadians, we need a banquet of government,
business, labour and community leaders to start crafting the solutions. These
are the forces that must unite when our members and their communities are
faced with job loss due to the current economic climate.
    When Fleetwood Enterprises, the well-known US maker of recreational
vehicles, announced last year it was closing its plant in Lindsay, Ontario, we
could have acted as many expect unions to act - with anger and recriminations.
We did not do that. As one of the largest employers in the Lindsay area, those
good paying jobs were too important for the local community. So we did what
unions are rarely given the opportunity to do - we worked with local business
to save these jobs. Joining with politicians from all levels of government and
the plant's management team, our union worked hard to craft and support a
management buy-out. It required sacrifice and yes, concessions on the part of
our members. It required creativity as we worked to marshal the resources of
our union's 450,000 members and their contacts across North America. It
required patience, as our members and the new management team worked their way
through the buy-out process.
    And it was worth it. Just before Christmas this year, Great Lakes
Recreational Products Inc. announced it will re-open the plant this month and
re-employ roughly 75% of the former Fleetwood workers.
    As a country, we need more examples of this cooperative spirit to save
jobs. And, we need to demonstrate that we value healthy manufacturing and
service sectors with good paying jobs. Simply setting aside money to increase
employment insurance and retrain laid off workers is not enough. Neither are
tax breaks and assistance programs to manufacturers under pressure from a
soaring dollar and difficult international trading situations the final
    We also need to use the power of the Bank of Canada to control a runaway
dollar, negotiate fair trade agreements, utilize the power of tax payers
through Made in Canada government procurement policies, and address the
problems of business facing soaring energy costs.
    So I hope you First Ministers enjoy your meal on Friday night but I would
encourage you to look beyond the demands of one dinner and expand the
invitation list for the next meal. My union represents thousands of hotel and
food service workers and I can tell you, without a doubt, that a few cooks
cannot prepare the banquet that is the Canadian economy. You'll need a very
big and diverse team for that.

    Alex Dagg,
    National Co-Director
    UNITE HERE Canada

For further information:

For further information: and interview requests, please contact: Susan
Reisler, Jeannie Tsang, Media Profile, (416) 342-1843, (416) 342-1815,
susan@mediaprofile.com, jeannie@mediaprofile.com

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