23rd Leadership Development School focused on building stronger unions

August 18 2022

Barrie (18 Aug. 2022) ― The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) 23rd Leadership Development School, which wrapped up today, focused on how to build a stronger labour movement. For participants from across Canada and from the Irish labour movement, it was a chance to achieve more effective decision-making and to see how tools like strategic planning can help unions deal with the challenges they face. Participants also examined issues facing unions and their members.

Chance to look at big picture without distractions

One of the goals of the Leadership Development School is to allow participants to look at big picture issues without distractions.

“In our day-to-day jobs, we are often so busy dealing with urgent problems that we don’t have time to look at major issues facing our unions, or how we can use new tools to respond to the challenges we face,” said Bert Blundon, NUPGE President. “The Leadership Development School provides people with the opportunity to explore important issues facing our movement and people across Canada and around the world.”

In-person school makes it easier to share experiences

One of the most important aspects of the school has been the opportunity for people from different places to share the challenges they are facing and how they are responding. This happens during the formal program, but also in the informal discussions that take place in the evenings. An important benefit of being able to resume holding an in-person school is the chance for participants to have those informal discussions.

What has also helped make the school special is the presence of international guests who are able to share what is happening in their countries. Many of the challenges faced by unions in other countries are similar to what we’re facing in Canada. Knowing how other unions have responded helps us in our work. This year Kevin Figgis, the head of the Health Division in SIPTU, Ireland’s largest trade union, was able to attend and present on the situation in Ireland.

School provided in-depth look at issues affecting members

Like everyone else in Canada, NUPGE members are affected by the housing crisis, racism, climate change and the overdose crisis. In many cases, our members face these issues inside and outside of the workplace. For that reason, the Leadership Development School has always included sessions intended to give people a chance to learn more about some of the major issues facing our members.

This year, in edition to the core program delivered by Elaine Bernard, participants in the school heard from:

  • Jason MacLean, Secretary-Treasurer of NUPGE on racism in Canada, and what unions can do;
  • Barb MacQuarrie, Community Director of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children in the Faculty of Education at Western University, on domestic violence in the workplace;
  • Libby Davies, author, former city councillor and former NDP Member of Parliament on the impact municipal politics has on our lives, and why labour activists should be involved;
  • Larry Savage, Chair, Department of Labour Studies, Brock University, on the situation facing Canadian unions in the wake of the pandemic;
  • Larry Brown, President Emeritus of NUPGE, on accountability and good governance in unions;
  • Dallas Alderson, Director, Public Affairs and Policy, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, on the housing crisis in Canada
  • Inspector Conor King, Victoria Police Department and Justice Institute of British Columbia, on the overdose epidemic
  • Rick Harp, host of the Media Indigena podcast, and Brock Pitawanakwat, Professor and Co-ordinator of the Indigenous Study Program at York University, on indigenous rights and reconciliation;
  • Nadia Ibrahim, National Representative with NUPGE, on tackling the climate crisis;
  • Kevin Figgis, Divisional Organiser with SIPTU Health on challenges and opportunities for the Irish labour movement;
  • Katrina Miller, interim Executive Director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, on the role taxes and how tax fairness can reduce the growing income inequality in Canada;
  • Euan Gibb, Regional Assistant at Public Services International, on the international labour movement and the right against the right.