The national representative for Unifor discusses unions, unpaid internships and the importance of rights
As part of George Brown College’s Labour Fair, keynote speaker Shane Wark, a national representative for Unifor, held a workshop discussing his union and the issues they face. He spoke to the human resources class on the difference his union makes, and how part of their mission involves social unionism, which means reaching out to working people.
Officially founded on Aug. 31, 2013, when the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) came together, Unifor now represents “more than 305,000 members across the country, working in every major sector of the Canadian economy,” according to their website.
“There is a rising gap between the rich and the poor. The blame lies with a broken system, not with unions or students, that is a myth,” said Wark, who went on to say that, “unions play an important role, and we have an impact on young people to create opportunities.”
He also made the distinction that Unifor not only protects jobs but aims to better the overall quality of those jobs. Part of this means turning part-time work into full-time work.
In regards to minimum wage increase to $11.25, last year, Wark says, “I think Kathleen Wynne has the right idea, but it’s still poverty level.”
Wark added that Unifor, as an organization, has also taken a stance against unpaid internships, which is an ongoing problem many students deal with when preparing to enter the workplace.
“As a full-time student balancing a part-time job, it was a valuable opportunity to hear from Shane,” said Azeez Arab, a human resources student at GBC. “Being informed and gaining knowledge within all aspects of a union like this has opened my eyes concerning my rights as a worker.”