President Given working to protect Canadian Seafarers and labour rights

February 20, 2018

Since our last update, SIU of Canada President James Given has been busy at home in Canada, advocating for the issues that matter most to our brothers and sisters across the country.


At the end of 2017, President Given participated in Canadian Marine Advocacy Council meetings with the Department of Transport. These meetings ensure our voice is heard by decision makers on a variety of issues. Our presence on the Council also helps us establish a consistent communications channel with authorities in the maritime sector, ensuring our positions are not only heard, but respected and acted upon.


As an important stakeholder in Canada’s maritime sector, President Given makes a point to speak with government officials and decision makers as frequently as possible. In early January, the SIU participated in a round table with Minister of Labour Patty Hajdu on changes to Canada’s labour code. In February, President Given participated in another Roundtable with Employment and Social Development Canada on enforcement of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program. Thanks to our efforts and the efforts of others involved in Maritime Labour, major changes to program delivery for the TFW have been published.


In January, Transport Minister Marc Garneau held a roundtable with stakeholders on NAFTA and the transportation sector. Unfortunately, we were not invited. In fact, only one voice representing the maritime industry was present – The Shipping Federation of Canada – which only represents international shipping in Canada and does not speak in favour of domestic shipping. The government suggested that we did not need to be present because the discussion would not focus on labour-related issues. We fought back and made sure the government heard us. While we were unable to participate in this meeting, we will be meeting with officials on trade deals and related-issues in the near future.


Outside of government-related activities, we recently participated in an anti-racism rally in St. Catharines Ontario. Our priority first and foremost is the wellbeing of our members and the health of Canada’s maritime industry. A close second, however, is advocating for fairness for all. We were able to rally several members and SIU staff to attend a counter-protest when we heard that white supremacists would be mobilizing outside of local MP Chris Bittle’s office. We could not stand for this type of hateful sentiment in our backyard and made sure our message was heard loud and clear.


Early on in 2018, our sister Union SEATU learned that employees of a local Tim Hortons had been intimidated and retaliated against when they attempted to unionize. Franchise management directly infringed upon employees’ labour rights. We took action to ensure the relevant authorities knew of the ongoing issues so they were equipped to take action.


As you may be aware, Unifor recently left the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). As a member of the CLC we oppose this move. Since its departure from the CLC, Unifor has gone on to raid members of the union Unite Here 75. In early February the remaining 55 members of the CLC (including the SIU) met to condemn in the strongest terms Unifor’s actions following its disaffiliation. We see their moves as an attempt at empire building, and harmful to solidarity among workers and labour advocacy more generally.


Most recently, President Given has been in talks with many of the shipping companies regarding recruitment efforts. Our industry is growing at a very rapid pace, perhaps even faster than we can keep up with. This is a great problem to have, but it means we need to double down on our efforts to recruit the next generation of seafarers. We know that adding to our already stellar group of brothers and sisters can only make us stronger!  More on that to come…. Stay tuned!