Canada’s largest private sector union, Unifor, has joined the growing chorus of concern over controversial shale gas development. The labour organization representing over 300,000 members in a wide range of economic sectors, including energy, is calling for a national fracking moratorium.
Unifor issued a statement from its 25-member National Executive Board Thursday raising concerns about the impacts of shale gas development on the environment and on First Nations’ rights.
“Unconventional gas fracking has the potential to have catastrophic effects on our environment and economy. The safety risks are also a major concern for our union,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.
[quote]Just because we can carry out this activity does not mean we should. We must enact a national moratorium on fracking activity.[/quote]
Provinces pass fracking moratoriums
Fracking has become a hot topic across the country in recent months.
In BC, a lawsuit against the provincial regulator over water permits for fracking was announced on Wednesday, while a high profile court case over water contamination winds its way through Alberta’s courts. The industry minister for the Northwest Territories is developing a new regulatory model for shale oil in advance of devolution, and fracking remains a highly controversial subject in New Brunswick, where First Nations recently clashed with the RCMP over exploratory work by an American company.
Support for First Nations
That last point was a key factor in Unifor’s decision to come out against fracking – as the union noted in its statement:
[quote]Any resource extraction industry in Canada must confront the problem of unresolved aboriginal land claims, and the inadequate economic benefits (including employment opportunities) which have been offered to First Nations communities from resource developments. [/quote]
Despite the potential job benefits to its, members, Unifor remains highly critical of the shale gas industry, concluding:
[quote]Instead of being guided by short-term swings in prices and profits for private energy producers, Canada’s federal and provincial governments must develop and implement (in cooperation with other stakeholders) a national plan for a stable, sustainable energy industry that respects our social and environmental commitments, and generates lasting wealth for all who live here.[/quote]
Council of Canadians calls for national fracking moratorium
Unifor’s call for a national moratorium echoes recent statements by public interest group The Council of Canadians.
Canada’s big energy workers’ unions are increasingly taking a critical look at the job promises from fossil fuel development. Watch this speech by president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Dave Coles, at last year’s Defend Our Coast rally in Victoria, explaining why his members are “diametrically opposed” to Tar Sands pipelines to BC’s coast: