The 28th Constitutional Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress was held in Toronto from May 8 to 12, 2017 under the theme “Together for a Fair Future”. The agenda was packed – including equity issues, younger workers, putting an end to precarious work, and the fight to implement a $15 minimum wage. Executive officers were elected, and Hassan Yussuff was acclaimed as President for a second mandate – all serving from 2017 to 2020. On May 10th, the Convention addressed the issue of climate change, and heard from a Green Jobs Panel, consisting of Sharan Burrow of the ITUC, Sheila Watt-Cloutier from Inuit Circumpolar Council, Matt Wayland of the IBEW, and Patrick Rondeau of the FTQ, with Rick Smith of the Broadbent Institute moderating. Although no documents have been posted to the CLC website yet, a Unifor press release states: ” … As one of the greatest challenges facing workers in Canada the Convention adopted a plan, outlined in the Green Jobs for a Fair Future policy, to guide the country through a necessary just transition to a green economy. Unifor’s delegation voted overwhelmingly to support the position paper and delegates pledged to take action for just transition…The policy paper calls on the CLC to lobby and work towards green jobs in home and building retrofits, expand public transit, ensure responsible resource development, and at the core, just transition for workers whose lives are already dramatically changed by climate change.”
The rest of the world is driving towards new technologies, but U.S. state governments are rolling back EV incentives and on March 15, Donald Trump took the U.S. a further step away from reducing transportation emissions. Following pressure from U.S. auto companies, and in the name of creating American jobs and reviving American manufacturing, the White House announced that the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will re-open the evaluation of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) standards for light-duty vehicles manufactured in 2022- 2025 . Never mind that the EPA, in the waning days of the Obama presidency in January 2017, had already issued its official Determination to leave the standards in place, stating that they “are projected to reduce oil consumption by 50 billion gallons and to save U.S. consumers nearly $92 billion in fuel cost over the lifetime of MY2022-2025 vehicles”, with minimal employment impacts. The New York Times compiles some of the U.S. reaction to the announcement, quoting Harvard’s Robert Stavins, who states that rolling back the Obama-level regulations would make it impossible for the United States to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement. A sample of U.S. concerns appear in: “Trump Fuel economy rollback would kill jobs and cost each car-buyer $1650 per year “ by Joe Romm in Think Progress ; DeSmog Blog “Trump Takes Aim at Fuel Efficiency Requirements, Prompting Concern US Automakers Will Lag on Innovation” ; and the Detroit Free Press, reporting on a lead-up Trump speech in Ypsilanti, Michigan , “Trump visit puts UAW politics in crosshairs” http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/2017/03/14/trump-visit-puts-uaw-politics-crosshairs/99165906/ (March 14). The Detroit Free Press states that autoworkers were bused in to the Trump event by their employers, with Fiat Chrysler and General Motors offering their workers a day’s pay as well. No immediate reaction to the announcement came from the United Autoworkers union, although the DFP article states: “UAW President Dennis Williams has repeatedly said he disagrees with Trump on health care, immigration, the environment and most other major issues. But Williams supports Trump’s desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) …..”
In Canada, where Unifor represents autoworkers, president Jerry Dias spoke out in “ Auto workers union takes aim at Trump’s examination of fuel standards ” in the Globe and Mail (March 16), and in a CTV News report . He states that “ he would fight any attempt to roll back environmentally friendly regulations in the auto industry following Trump’s announcement”. Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change was in Washington on March 15th, meeting with EPA head Scott Pruitt, but her reaction was guarded and diplomatic, as reported in “As Trump eyes reprieve for gas guzzlers, Canada looks to China ” in the National Observer and in “Trump targets fuel-efficiency standards” in the Globe and Mail (March 16). Traditionally, Canadian fuel emissions standards have been harmonized with the U.S. , as a result of the strongly integrated auto industry. For example, at the end of February, Canada released its proposed regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, and according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, Canada continued to follow the U.S. model. Similarly, Ontario announced a Memorandum of Understanding on auto manufacturing with the state of Michigan on March 13, pledging cooperation on regulatory standards as well as technology and supply chain management.
Harmonization will be more difficult after Trump’s announcement on March 15, just as Canada and Ontario are reviewing their own revisions to fuel emissions regulation . Ontario reacted to the Trump announcement with a pledge to continue to cooperate with California and Quebec in the Western Climate Initiative – read “Ontario plans to team up with California against Trump on climate change” in the National Observer (March 16). California won the right to set its own fuel emission standards in the 1970’s, and today, fifteen other states voluntarily follow California’s tougher standards, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and the New York metropolitan area – translating into more than 40% of the U.S. population. “The Coming Clean-Air war between Trump and California” in The Atlantic surveys this latest conflict between California and the Trump administration . A press release from Governor Gerry Brown called the fuel standards announcement “a cynical ploy” that puts politics ahead of science, and pledged that California will fight it in court.
Canada’s forestry companies, through their organization the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), recently released two “report cards” to measure their progress towards their Vision 2020 goals for productivity, environmental performance, and people . Regarding people, their Pathways to Prosperity report states: “the sector recruited 8,000 workers in the period 2010 to 2012, mainly to replace retiring baby-boomers.” The environmental performance measures get far more attention: “
In 2010-2012, the reduction in waste to landfill was 31%, …. with 98% of wood residue now being used for either energy generation or composting. More than 66% of mills’ waste water sediment is being used for either energy generation, composting or land application. The recycling rate also improved by another 4%. Canada has one of the highest recovery rates of waste paper and packaging in the world at 73% … Energy use decreased by 8%. For example, the sector continued to invest in energy reduction projects including the installation of energy-efficient equipment to improve mills’ competitiveness and increase the production of green energy. This has also served to improve the quality of air emissions with a reduction in particulate matter (PM) (11%), sulphur oxide (SOx) (6%) and nitrous oxide (NOx) (11%)” .
The Productivity Scorecard report is based on a detailed analysis by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS). That study documents the trends in the labour force and in labour productivity, and concludes that the driving force behind rapid labour productivity growth in the forest products industry is multifactor productivity growth, made possible by investment in change and innovation. The report describes the two major initiatives: Future Bio-pathways Project (begun in 2010), and Construction Value Pathways (begun in 2013). The report recommends renewed focus on human and physical capital investment, as well as on R&D spending.
To rebrand the industry and attract a new generation of workers to the sector, FPAC launched The Greenest Workforce.ca website. The website states: “The industry’s traditional products like pulp, paper and lumber are fundamental to the success of new products like renewable bio-fuels, green bio-plastics, bio-pharmaceuticals, bulletproof vests, car parts and airplane wings which are part of the dynamic new face of the Canadian forest products industry.” Using videos and Twitter, the site includes job postings, job profiles, descriptions of the industry and career prospects.
Unifor, which represents more than 21,000 forestry workers, and just completed bargaining for a pattern agreement with Resolute Forest Products, agrees that the industry is in transition. In a President’s Statement of June 8, Jerry Diaz calls for the reinstatement of a Forestry Industry Council with “a specific mandate to investigate and make public recommendations for a strengthened high-value forestry industry.”
Vision2020 Pathways to Prosperity (June 17) is at http://www.fpac.ca/index.php/en/page/vision2020
Productivity Report Card summary (May 2014) is at http://www.fpac.ca/publications/14-FPAC-0349-ProductivityReportDesign2014-EN-Rev5.pdf with the detailed analysis prepared by the Centre for the Study of Living standards (CSLS) at http://www.csls.ca/reports/csls2014-01.pdf .
Greenest Workforce.ca is at http://www.thegreenestworkforce.ca/index.php/en/
Unifor Statement is at http://www.unifor.org/en/blog/new-resolute-collective-agreements-covering-2000-workers
The New Brunswick government released a new forestry plan in March 2014, following heavy lobbying by the forest industry, led by J.D Irving Ltd. The industry argued that they needed a long-term commitment to access the wood supply from Crown Lands to justify the large capital investment necessary to make New Brunswick mills efficient. The 2014 Strategy for Crown Lands Forest Management increases the amount of softwood (chiefly spruce and fir) that can be harvested from Crown Lands by 20%, and reduces the areas that are off-limits to industrial cutting (including watercourse buffers, deer wintering areas, and old growth forest) from 28% to 23% over a 10-15 year period. The result, according to the government, will be “500 new, well-paid private sector jobs” and “more than $22 million in additional annual wages”. Direct forest sector employment in New Brunswick had fallen 24% and the number of mills had fallen 47% since 2004, according to the government. Since the release, J.D. Irving Ltd. has committed to $513 million in capital investments in its mills, mostly at Irving Pulp & Paper in Saint John.
In response to the March Strategy document, Rino Ouellet, Atlantic area Director for Unifor, issued a press release which echos the government’s economic arguments and endorses the Forestry Plan. In a February press release, he had stated, “…in order for the plan to work, it must include in the process First Nations people, wood lot owners, labour, and crown land rights…and must continue to allow for environmentally-protected areas”.
On another side of this triangular debate, opposition includes: the provincial leader of the Green Party, who calls it “a plan for plunder”; the executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness, who calls it “regressive”; Graham Forbes, a professor from University of New Brunswick, who says it is unsustainable; and Rod Cumberland, a retired government biologist, who says many provincial government scientists are alarmed, but are too afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
The political storm continues on this issue. On April 24th, the government tabled in the legislature the terms of an agreement with J.D. Irving which increases the company’s annual allocations of softwood, for an initial term of 25 years, beginning on July 1, 2014. The contract calls for the company’s performance to be reviewed every five years, with five-year renewals contingent upon satisfactory performance.
Putting Our Resources To Work: A Strategy For Crown Lands Forest Management on the New Brunswick government website at: http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/nr-rn/pdf/en/ForestsCrownLands/AStrategyForCrownLandsForestManagement.pdf
Unifor’s March press release: “Atlantic’s Largest Forestry Union applauds Long term plan for Sector” at:
http://www.unifor.org/en/whats-new/press-room/atlantics-largest-forestry-union-applauds-long-term-plan-sector; February press release at: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1298929/forestry-plan-much-needed-for-new-brunswick
For Reactions: The Crown Lands Debate, a Feature on the CBC website at: http://www.cbc.ca/nb/features/crownforestrydebate/ including, “Irving clout with Government challenged in wake of Forest Deal” at:http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/irving-clout-with-government-challenged-in-wake-of-forest-deal-1.2572410; and “New Crown Forest Plan slammed by retired Provincial Biologist” at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/new-crown-forest-plan-slammed-by-retired-provincial-biologist-1.2580430; “New Crown Forestry Plan greeted with Shock, Dismay” at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/new-crown-forestry-plan-greeted-with-shock-dismay-1.2570803
“J.D. Irving’s Crown Forest Contract Made Public” is at the CBC at: