Members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada have voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining forces to create a super-union with the Canadian Auto Workers.
CEP Local 758 president George Hewson, who represents gas workers in the southwestern Ontario city of Windsor, estimates 85 to 90 per cent of those casting their votes Monday afternoon in Quebec City were in favour of the proposed merger.
The next step is to create six large committees over the next few years to comb through the fine details of the merger.
"I'd equate this to building a car with no options and over the next three years, we will be putting in those options to suit both unions," said Hewson.
Hewson said some members of the CEP, the smaller of the two unions, are concerned because they want to ensure their voice is heard.
"We have things that we enjoy as a grassroots union," said Hewson.
CAW members express mixed feelings
One of the biggest challenges, he said, will be to agree on a new name for the so-called super-union.
CAW delegates already voted in favour of the new union proposal, which would create the country's largest private-sector union, when they met at their convention Aug. 22 in Toronto.
The two unions say the merger idea comes in response to multiple attacks on the country's labour force, including several pieces of back-to-work legislation passed by the federal government.
CAW member Richard St. Denis said there's strength in numbers.
"To go from 170,000 up to over 300,000 people strong from coast to coast is going to make a positive impact on the labour community and on the labour conditions in Canada in general," said St. Denis.
Another CAW member, Richard Labonte, said a merger is a good idea, but has some lingering questions.
"If there's any reservations at all it's that we're really happy with our current leadership with the CAW," said Labonte. "Will they be at the helm of this new union? I think that's the only thing."