GSU’s 15th biennial policy convention recap

GSU’s 15th biennial policy convention took place March 23-25 at Moose Jaw’s Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa. Nearly forty delegates were in attendance to represent their peers as they set GSU’s guiding policies and reviewed the union’s operations, finances and plans for the future.

Delegate participation was high as they asked questions and requested the information they needed to speak to the issues, express their points of view, and vote on matters that would set the path for the union over the next two years and beyond.

GSU affiliates from RWDSU Sask. Joint Board, RWU BC, GWU, Sask. Federation of Labour and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (Canada) were also in attendance to observe and bring greetings to the convention. Their presence didn’t go unnoticed among GSU’s delegates, many of whom commented that it was eye-opening to learn that through GSU they were connected to other powerful organizations, and they enjoyed hearing the history of how those relationships had benefited each union and its members.

This connection to the greater labour movement bolstered Locals 1 and 2 (Viterra), 5 (Western Producer), 7 (Heartland/Northern Livestock Sales) and 18 (Lloydminister & District Co-op) as they are in various states of negotiations. Bargaining reports highlighting the many tactics and ploys that employers have to influence negotiations refocused delegates at convention. Negotiating a collective agreement shouldn’t be taken lightly and members should always be prepared to fight for what they have and organize to make a push for improvements. 

Throughout three days, the audited financial reports and operations budget were approved, nearly 30 resolutions were considered, and the Joint Executive Council’s annual report to members was approved for release to GSU members. Members also got up and moving when they participated in a getting-to-know-you icebreaker and a Truth and Reconciliation exercise.

Elections are an important part of convention, and this one was no different. Delegates voted to appoint Wilfred Harris (Local 1 – Viterra), Barry Zimmer (Local 1 – Viterra), Doug Kampman (Local 8 – Advance), Craig Reiman (Local 14 – Richardson) and Lynn Shaw (Local 15 – Nutrien) to two-year terms as GSU’s Defense Fund Board directors. Elections also saw incumbents Jim Brown (president), Michelle Houlden (vice president), and Sheila Tran (vice president) each return to their positions on the union’s executive committee for another two-year term.

The impending March 31 retirement of Hugh Wagner as GSU’s general secretary was also acknowledged throughout convention as ILWU president Rob Ashton, SFL president Lori Johb, RWDSU general secretary Gary Burkart and others shared kind words and well wishes during their time bringing greetings to convention delegates. Wagner was also honoured at the convention banquet Friday evening as he was presented with an honourary GSU lifetime membership and a long-term service award acknowledging his 48 years of service for GSU.

Congratulations were also extended to GSU’s new general secretary Steve Torgerson who officially accepted the appointment following a resolution to convention that was carried unanimously.

“The convention was a success,” Torgerson reflected. “We appreciate everyone who made time to attend, and we’re looking forward to acting on the resolutions and direction of the members.”


(Top l-r) vice president Sheila Tran, former general secretary Hugh Wagner, president Jim Brown, vice president Michelle Houlden, general secretary Steve Torgerson.

Hugh Wagner accepts a token of gratitude presented by ILWU president Rob Ashton.

General secretary Steve Torgerson leads delegates through a Truth and Reconciliation exercise.