The Independant Canadian Transit Union (ICTU) at its peak was approximately 7000 members, employed in transit, transportation, health care, engineering and service industries.
The Union was formed as a result of a break-away from the ATU (International) on January 18, 1982, when the ICTU won the representation vote and were awarded the first ICTU Certification which was the 2700 Transit Operators and Maintenance workers working for the Metro Vancouver public transit company.
The ICTU was finally wound-down in February 2000 when this group of workers voted, by a close certification vote to join the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW). The Union had been steadily loosing members to other unions, some choosing to join the CAW, such as Several HandyDart Bus Drivers (Metro Vancouver), Loomis Armored Car Service and the Victoria Transit and Maintenance workers (Formerly CAW Local 333). Other groups had left (succeeded) to Join CUPE and LIUNA (notably the Vancouver SkyTrain Workers joined CUPE and Ottawa St Vincent Hospital joined LIUNA).
It is worth mentioning that the Victoria Transit Workers were part of the same certification as the Vancouver Transit Workers but a legislative change by the NDP in 1999 removed them from the certification, enabling this group to be the first to succeed to the CAW (Formerly Local 333) but more importantly it was the beginning of the manipulation by government and business to break-up the Transit System and move towards privatization of many services. This would play a significant roll in the 2001 Great Strike that was to follow.
The political pressure was mounting and there was great concern about the ability of a small union like ICTU to take on the corporate giants and their political masters and their clear agenda to break-up the Metro Vancouver Transit System and the Union, which was financially suffering following years of costly litigation by the International Union that we had broken away from (the ATU). As a result, in February 2000, a sign-up by CAW was to see the Vancouver Transit Workers (Formerly CAW Locals 111 & 2200) narrowly vote in favour of joining the CAW.
Given that the decision by the largest group (Formerly CAW Locals 111 and 2200, Metro Vancouver Operators, Maintenance & SeaBus) was a close vote, there was significant concerns entering into the Bargaining Process in 2001, with what appeared to many (including the Liberal Government) considered as a very divided and fractious group of workers. A Union that had been known for their regular wildcats and what was seen by many (with good reason) as fostering a “radical” approach to industrial relations. The CAW “deadline strike” policy and general bargaining approach was to be soon tested with this group just familiarizing themselves with the CAW “way”. The stage was set for a strike from the beginning with a government determined to beat down the unions in BC and this Radical Transit Union (now CAW) seemed to be a very good starting point.
Sure enough before we knew it we were on the picket lines with CAW Officers and Staff working with us and advising us on how to run a strike. (The last lengthy strike we had was in 1984). The 2001 strike is well documented as it lasted four months, before we got “legislated” back to work which was the first legislation passed by a newly elected Liberal Government of Gordon Campbell who had just ousted the NDP prior to the strike.
The picket lines remained strong, despite the fact that many members were hurting and had it not been for the strike pay it would have been a very ugly situation. The Public Support, amazingly, seemed to be behind the Union. The Orchestration of the strike from beginning to end was to be a bonding of this membership with each other and with their new CAW Union that many had opposed joining, for various reasons.
The Support from CAW Local Unions across the country was something that none of us had ever experienced before and one which, to this day, we will never forget. This was clearly one of the finest moments in the history of Vancouver Transit Workers, which has had its fair share in “In Fighting” over the decades. The Members were so amazed by the strength, support and general solidarity from across the country, that it became clear that we had arrived at a place (CAW Union) where we were finally all on the same page (of course there will always be the usual political internal battles and conflicts, as in any healthy union).
Following the strike, we rapidly became very comfortable in our new CAW Union. There were some structural changes that needed to take place and bylaw changes required to conform to the CAW-TCA National Constitution and these have been mostly achieved to the betterment of the Locals.
We were always know for the number of “Constitutional Junkies” amongst our ranks, that would have some difficulty adjusting to the new structure and size of the CAW Union, but generally we accepted the Constitution and Structure as workable, once we got to know it a bit and see how things worked.
We believe to have affected some positive changes and participated fully in the life of the Union with full attendance at all CAW Council Meetings, Constitutional Conventions (where you will generally see a few resolution of the “seed planting variety”), Sectoral Councils, and of course the Skilled Trades Council where we were very much at home, discussing skilled trades issues.
Unifor was officially formed on August 31, 2013, at a Founding Convention in Toronto, Ontario. It marked the coming together of the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) – two of Canada’s largest and most influential labour unions. The birth of Unifor represented a sign of hope for the Canadian labour movement, and working people more generally.
British Columbia labour law differs from most other provinces in the country when it comes to union certification. In British Columbia the Local Union holds the certification, therefore a Special Meeting was held June 27, 2013 where CAW Locals 111 and 2200 voted on a motion to support the formation of Unifor. Then, following the Founding Convention, all BC Locals had to file an application with the BC Labour Relations Board to be officially recognized as Unifor.
As of March 6, 2014, the Local Union was formally certified as UNIFOR Local2200.