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Two of Canada’s most respected labour leaders are stepping down, as their respective unions prepare for a historic merger. Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), and Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), announced today they will not be vying for leadership of the new union, Unifor.

Paul Moist, national president of CUPE, offered his congratulations and thanks to Coles and Lewenza on behalf of all CUPE members.

I wanted to recognize you both for your outstanding trade union careers and your many contributions to the broader labour movement,” said Moist in a letter to Coles and Lewenza. “It has been a privilege to serve with both of you on the Canadian Labour Congress Executive, and I am proud of the relationship CUPE has with both the CAW and the CEP. I know this will continue under the new leadership of Unifor.”

In late August, CEP and CAW will be merging to form Unifor, which will be Canada’s largest private sector union representing over 300,000 Canadian workers in more than 20 sectors.

Moist thanked Coles and Lewenza for their leadership in fostering Unifor.

The new union is a shot in the arm for our entire labour movement and we all owe you our thanks,” said Moist.  “I again thank both of you for your leadership and your friendship and wish both of you all the very best, on behalf of all 630,000 members of CUPE.”

Moist will be attending the founding convention of Unifor, being held on the Labour Day weekend – Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 – in Toronto.