Cam Fortems – Kamloops This Week
A new leader has taken the helm at Kamloops and District Labour Council by promising to engage more with the community.
Barbara Nederpel, a former nurse and now a clerical worker at Royal Inland Hospital, was acclaimed last week as the council’s new president for the next two years.
She replaces Peter Kerek, an outspoken opponent of the proposed Ajax copper and gold mine who also ran unsuccessfully for city council in November.
“I started working as a nurse and saw the challenges we had,” said Nederpel, who is also second vice-president with the provincial Hospital Employees’ Union.
“I’d always find something blocking me: ‘Why is this thing falling apart? Why aren’t we funding things properly?’”
Two years ago, Nederpel became active in the labour council, which represents public and private unions in the city and region.
Nederpel acknowledged Kerek’s strident opposition to the proposed Ajax mine, a sentiment she shares.
But, she also cautioned there are mixed feelings among labour council members about the proposed open-pit mine south of Aberdeen that is promising several-hundred jobs.
“It’s not a huge focus,” she said of Ajax.
The labour council passed a resolution several years ago opposing the mine, causing a split with the Steelworkers’ Union.
“I’m open to change and democracy,” Nederpal said.
“If an affiliate comes forward and says, ‘Why don’t we wait for an environmental review?’ I’m open to that . . . I’m just one voice of many.”
The labour council is front and centre in a number of events, including the annual Labour Day Picnic and the National Day of Mourning for workers hurt or killed on the job.
“We’re really looking at engaging a little more with the community and showing the general population we’re not about getting good contracts for ourselves,” Nederpel said.
“What we want for us, we want for everyone.”
Nederpel is also president of the NDP’s provincial Kamloops-North Thompson electoral association and vice-president of the party’s federal Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo federal riding association.