Unionists and worker activists will meet this weekend for a free public discussion on labour in the Okanagan.
The event, titled Envisioning Labour’s Future in the Okanagan, is being hosted by UBC Okanagan from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on May 18 at the Okanagan Regional Library.
Panelists will include union representatives for the transit union, electrical workers, casino workers and migrant workers, as well as representatives of the North Okanagan Labour Council.
Part of the reason for hosting the event, UBCO associate professor of sociology Luis Aguiar told the Capital News, is a perceived, recent resurgence in labour activity.
Aguiar named the Central Okanagan bus driver strike, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers walkout and casino worker strike as examples.
“Does this mean a new sort of rules for labour in the Okanagan or is this more of the same?” Aguiar asked, adding that panelists will also be guided by this question at the event.
Discussion on the future of work and labour rights in the Okanagan will also be contextualized by the demographic and economic changes coming to the region, he said.
Based on BC Statistics projections, the City of Kelowna is anticipating that approximately 50,000 residents will be added to the population between now and 2040.
Given such projections, Aguiar said, there may be new challenges and opportunities when it comes to labour movements.
Economic changes also bring the role of young workers into question, said Kelly Hutchinson, one of the panelists set to speak at the event.
Hutchinson is the vice president of the North Okanagan Labour Council, but spoke with the Capital News solely on behalf of himself.
“Our economy is changing from traditionally agriculture to more service-based industry and that tends to be populated by more younger people,” he said, adding that a significant number of workers who walked the picket lines during the casino strike were under 30.
When increased population density creates increased pressure on the working class, including young people, he said, “you start to see more organization.”