Statement from President Rob Ashton Regarding A Statement from the SIU

 In News


As the President of ILWU Canada, I have a duty to the rank and file members to protect our union from misinformation and slander. ILWU Canada has a very long history of solidarity both within our membership and with our allies in the labour community, and we work hard to unite, uplift, and defend all workers from attacks on union members.

Unfortunately, last week I was the subject of an attack by a fellow union leader, so I feel compelled to correct the misinformation contained in the statement by President Jim Given of the Seafarer’s International Union of Canada (SIU) posted on their website. I want to assure all ILWU members and the broader labour community that there continues to be no doubt about the integrity of our Union and its ideals.

I was accused of threatening to “kill” the SIU and declaring “war” on its members. This is unequivocally false. I have not made any such threats against any Union or union member. Notably, the SIU does not provide any source for their claims in their statement. They do not provide any evidence of these apparent threats because no such threats have ever been issued.

I was extremely concerned about the slanderous and inflammatory nature of Jim Given’s statements. The closest evidence I could see as the source of his claims was a video of a speech I made in June during our commemoration of the Battle of Ballantyne. In that speech, I use the analogy of a predator in our waters who is threatening the livelihoods of our members.

In my speech, I very clearly specified that the predator I’m referring to is the threat posed by corporations in the maritime industry who are actively working to undermine the rights and strong labour contracts that our Union has fought for over the decades. These corporations drive the price of doing business into the ground and start a race to the bottom so that they can push out companies that pay good wages and benefits to the workers. This race to the bottom only has one outcome: the destruction of worker strength, stability, and solidarity.

I state, “that our union is under attack in an ongoing war, and that we must either kill this predator or chase it out of our waters.” Analogies like that are common tools that union leaders use from time to time to convey our message to our memberships. As a maritime union whose foundation is built upon protecting ourselves from greedy corporations, we all understand the visual.

At no point during this speech do I refer to another union being a part of this predatory threat, much less identify the SIU as being a predator, or issue a threat to “kill” them.

We as a Union have never and will never put worker against worker. Our union will always stand up for the working class so that the gains other workers make can be our gains, and vice versa. Our Union will always defend against those who wish to profit by driving the livelihoods of workers into the abyss. 

And yes, this is a war! This is a war against workers! I would hope that all unions stand with us in this struggle to defend the maritime industry in BC. It has taken us many generations to build this worker power here on the West Coast of BC. We shall not allow corporations to destroy this legacy.

As the President of the ILWU Canada, I will not stand by and allow the industries our workers work in, be gutted by corporations of any kind. I would expect any other union to do the same.

To the members of the SIU Canada: if you felt my comments were in anyway directed at you, they were not. We are all in this together. To the members of the ILWU Canada: let us continue lifting workers up and strengthening the working class, and not be distracted with unneeded provocation.

An Injury To One, Is Definitely An Injury To All,

In Strength & Solidarity,

Rob Ashton


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