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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Backlash as CLC and President Yussuff back Morneau at OECD

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

Many in the Canadian labour movement oppose the CLC's embrace of Morneau, that included a joint statement with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a video endorsement from CLC President Yussuff.

Updated November 3 with statements from CUPW, USW and the UFCW.

In a move that many find perplexing, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and its President Hassan Yussuff have very publicly gotten behind the candidacy of former Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau for the presidency of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). On October 30 the CLC issued a joint statement with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce saying it was their "pleasure" to do so.

It would be fair to label such a move as surprising given that Bill Morneau was seen as on the right flank of a Liberal government that is no great friend to labour to begin with. The independent labour news site tweeted out about the statement:

Since then backlash to the Morneau endorsement has been growing within the ranks of labour.

On October 31, former President of the Ontario Federation of Labour Sid Ryan posted a scathing response on Facebook in which he said that at first he thought the endorsement "was a satirical article from the Onion".

He went on to say:

This is the same Bill Morneau who as Liberal Finance Minister introduced Bill C-27, an act to convert Defined Benefit Pension Plans over to risky Target Benefit Plans where all of the risk is borne by the worker. Morneau's family business 'Morneau Shepell' manages pension plans and therefore stood to earn millions of dollars from the change. The labour movement fought for decades to ensure workers could retire with a decent pension plan protected from inflation that would allow them to live out their golden years with security and in dignity . Morneau who sits atop a family fortune in excess of $300 million tried to take away that scrap of dignity from workers. He was also caught up in several Liberal scandals including failure to disclose he owned a French Chateau - says he forgot he owned it, failure to place his assets in a blind trust fund, selling off stock assets prior to implementing tax changes that caused a drop in the stock market and the WE scandal that led to his resignation as Finance Minister.

He is not alone in his sentiments. On November 2, Mark Hancock, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canada’s largest union, took to Facebook as well to voice his displeasure.

To be perfectly clear, neither CUPE nor I were consulted on this. I reject this endorsement. Among other things, during his time as Finance Minister, Mr. Morneau sponsored Bill C-27, some of the most regressive pension legislation we have ever seen in Canada, that would have set retirement security for Canadians back generations had it become law.

Also on November 2 the Hamilton & District Labour Council adopted a resolution opposing the move that read:

Whereas former Finance Minister and MP Bill Morneau resigned from the Liberal Party (and as Member of Parliament) under scandal AND
Whereas for a majority of his tenure as minister, he promoted Bill C-27, a deliberate attack on pension plans across the country, AND
Whereas the same Bill Morneau's corporation Morneau/Shepell was responsible for gouging benefits from 15,000 Steelworker retirees in Hamilton,
BIRT the HDLC denounces the CLC's endorsement of Bill Morneau to head the OECD and further requests that the CLC Canadian Council reconsider this endorsement at the first opportunity.

Hassan Yussuff, however, is continuing to back the campaign. On November 2 Morneau posted a video from Yussuff:

The notion of Morneau as a protector of workers' rights seems fanciful at best.

Update: Since this was first posted on the morning of November 3, two new statements have been issued by the major Canadian unions the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and the United Steelworkers (USW)

This was a shocking action by the CLC, which is responsible to speak on behalf of working people – defending and strengthening the rights of workers. The CLC and its leadership team has roundly failed workers in its co-sponsored endorsement of Morneau. The USW, its Canadian leaders and members are outraged by this irresponsible and ridiculous action by CLC President Hassan Yussuff.
As Federal Finance Minister, Bill Morneau put forward Bill C-27, which had it been successful, would have imperilled retirement security for Canadians and set workers and pension plans back decades. Morneau was also a key part of a government which interfered in collective bargaining by legislating postal workers back to work, botched paying federal employees with the much-maligned Phoenix system and took numerous other actions that show Morneau has not been on the side of working people.
Partnering with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, without the input of any CLC affiliate, is also deeply troubling and shows a disregard for the labour unions that form the CLC. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is a body that has historically pushed for anti-worker policies that would either halt progress or set working people back.

Meanwhile the CUPW statement says (excerpt):

In our view Mr. Morneau’s actions as Finance Minister demonstrated that he is exactly the wrong type of person to head any important international organization.
Mr. Morneau supported denying postal workers our basic democratic and constitutional right to collective bargaining in November 2018. He also was the architect of Bill C-27, an attack on the pensions of workers in the Federal sector. This legislation was opposed by the entire labour movement and many organizations representing seniors and pensioners. In a letter to Mr. Morneau, the Canadian labour Congress described the legislation as “an unconscionable betrayal of the legal rights and protections of plan members.”
Furthermore the record demonstrates that during his tenure as Finance Minister, Mr. Morneau did little to pursue progressive policies with respect to the OECD’s core economic mandate of promoting inclusive growth, sustainable economic development and digital economy.
CUPW also objects to the CLC partnering with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to make this joint statement. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has a long history of supporting reactionary anti-worker legislation and opposing progressive measures advocated by the labour movement and our true allies.

Late on November 3 UFCW National President Paul Meinema added his voice with a statement headlined "CLC Morneau endorsement shows absolute contempt for workers".


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