February 6, 2002
KELOWNA - With workers all over B.C. under attack from the Gordon Campbell government, the labour movement needs strong voices to speak up on its behalf, says the new president of the North Okanagan Labour Council.
David Doran, who has served as acting president of the NOLC since September, was elected Tuesday to a one-year term as leader of the organization that represents 10,000 North and Central Okanagan union members.
"Liberal policies are driving the province further into recession," said Doran. "The Gordon Campbell government must be made to understand that putting workers on the unemployment line is not the way to bring about economic recovery."
Doran said the NOLC will work to overturn policies that are making life miserable for thousands British Columbians. Rallies planned Feb. 23 in Kelowna and Vernon to oppose Liberal cuts to local services is one of the activities the labour council will be involved with. The Kelowna rally will take place at 1 p.m. at the Apple Bowl. Details are still being worked out in Vernon.
"The more the Liberals attack working people and services, the more uncertainty they create," Doran said. "Layoffs, minimum wage cuts, tearing up properly negotiated agreements and cutting working standards only create more instability, not the confident climate for investment B.C. needs."
"When workers enjoy decent conditions, secure jobs and livable wages, they spend their paycheques and fuel the economy," said Doran. "Putting workers first is how you bring about economic recovery," he said.
David Mitchell of the Telecommunications Workers Union, Cathy Seagris of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union and Ron Bobowski of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers were elected to vice-presidents' positions at the NOLC's annual general meeting.
Judi Filion of the BCGEU was acclaimed secretary-treasurer and Pat Bulmer of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union recording secretary. Carpenters Union delegates Tony Heisterkamp and Terry Sawiuk were elected to represent the North and Central Okanagan on the executive, respectively, with Trudy Ames of the BCGEU chosen sergeant-at-arms.
Doran said the NOLC is concerned that after massive layoffs and program cuts and the ripping up of properly negotiated contracts last month, the new Liberal government isn't done gutting the province yet. Rumours are the government will attack basic working standards next.
"Despite what the Fraser Institute might think, I fail to see how weakening health and safety regulations, making it harder for workers to collect overtime pay and taking away basic employment standards workers have enjoyed for decades will boost the economy.
"Like the province's ill-timed tax cut, such regressive measures will only add to the uncertain mood plaguing the province," Doran said.
The NOLC will not only urge the Liberal government to show workers a little more respect, but will also push the government to be more active in helping the local economy. The government's inaction on the Western Star plant closure in Kelowna was a disgrace, said Doran.
"I'm astonished that the new government and our local MLAs wouldn't lift a finger to try to save Kelowna's most important private-sector employer," said Doran. "We didn't elect our MLAs to fiddle while the Okanagan burns."
The NOLC holds general membership meetings monthly, alternating between Kelowna and Vernon. The next meeting will be at 7:30 p.m., March 6 at the Village Green Hotel in Vernon.