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First CUPE human rights conference opens in Vancouver

CUPE members from across Canada gathered in Vancouver this week for CUPE’s first National Human Rights Conference.

In the face of an increasing onslaught by our federal and many provincial governments against economic and social programs, and increasing moves to control citizens’ lives, this conference will act as a reminder that human rights should never be put on hold for any reason,” said National President Paul Moist.

Musqueam Elder Larry Grant opened the conference. Other guests include activist lawyers Anita Braha and Kiké Roach, Adriana Paz, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers, University of Toronto professor and activist Sherene Razack, and social justice activist Itrath Syed. They will join Paul Moist, National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux, Ontario Secretary-Treasurer Fred Hahn, and other CUPE leaders in workshops and panel discussions examining how human rights intersect with our working lives.

Inclusion is the watchword of this conference as issues related to Aboriginal workers, workers with disabilities, workers of colour, and migrant workers are examined in both the Canadian and international context.

House of Commons approves child care act

The House of Commons voted 144 to 116 for Bill C-303, the Early Learning & Child Care Act this week. The bill would create national standards for child care, much like the Canada Health Act.

The bill will be reviewed by a committee before being brought back to the House of Commons for a third vote. Bills also need to be approved by the Senate and proclaimed into law before they take effect.

Lesson for McGuinty Liberals in Toronto school board election

CUPE is pleased at the election of 11 progressive candidates in the recent Toronto school board elections. The trustees ran on platforms calling for a fix to the provincial funding formula and adequate funding for schools.

By voting for these trustees, parents in Toronto have sent a strong message to the Ontario Liberals that the school funding formula needs to be fixed now,” says Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario president.

The 11 elected trustees were endorsed by parents, unions (including CUPE), and community groups as part of the Campaign for Public Education (CPE).

P3 survey dodges accountability question

A pro-privatization group’s latest poll doesn’t ask crucial questions about transparency, oversight and public scrutiny of secret P3 deals.

The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships’ poll asks selective and hypothetical questions about privatization of public services, including water, hospitals, roads and other community infrastructure.

The poll’s central question assumes P3s don’t come with access, cost and quality concerns – a major stretch, considering experiences in Canada, Australia and Britain.

In Ontario, health groups have gone to court to get basic financial information about a P3 hospital. In Vancouver, elected officials responsible for the final decision on a $2-billion rapid transit line were denied access to key documents underpinning the project. The Harper government is renewing its push to privatize services through P3s, a move that will widen the Conservatives’ accountability gap.

Penticton library workers say ‘yes’ to CUPE

Nineteen library workers in Penticton, British Columbia, have voted overwhelmingly to join CUPE as a sub-local of CUPE 608.

These workers have been considering joining the union for a long time,” said CUPE servicing representative Rob Hewitt, commenting on the vote.

Lockout threatens Quebec resort’s ski season

Despite an offer from the union to extend its contract, the director of the Mount Orford ski resort near Magog, Quebec, cancelled its season this week.

The 100 members of CUPE 1232 have been locked out since October 31. Another 300 employees have also been affected because of the facility’s closure.

Overshadowing the negotiations is the provincial government’s move to privatize the Mount Orford’s ski and golf facilities, under Bill 23.

The government had leased the land to André L’Espérance, who owns the ski resort’s equipment. But as part of its tendering process, the government is cancelling its arrangement with L’Espérance.

The lockout seems as much about L’Espérance’s desire to squeeze money out of the province as it is about squeezing the workers. The province will need the lockout problem to disappear if it is to proceed with its plans.

Meanwhile, the livelihoods of the resort’s 400 employees as well as the health of the region’s economy are hanging in the balance.

Deaf counsellors fight for workplace equity, fair wages

Residential and life skills counsellors at the Bob Rumball Association for the Deaf (BRAD) in Milton, Ontario, say they are prepared to fight for workplace equity, fair wages and respect denied many deaf workers.

This marks the first contract negotiations for CUPE 4763. Some of the 90 BRAD employees have not had a wage increase in nearly 10 years. Others earn wages well below the sector average.

The workers provide community-based and group home care, including job and life skills counseling and family support, to developmentally disabled deaf youth and adults.

Nova Scotia child welfare workers raise concerns about 1-800 number

Child welfare workers in Nova Scotia are concerned over news that the Department of Community Services is launching a 1-800 number to replace on-call services.

The new system will supposedly rely on workers’ case notes being updated and accessible via the computer system within 24 hours. But CUPE points out that many rural CAS workers are on the road for days at a time, don’t have laptops and don’t have any way to access the system outside of their offices.

In some cases, we have trouble meeting the old standard of updating case notes in 72 hours, never mind 24 hours,” noted CUPE spokesperson John Atwater.

CUPE and Leisureworld Muskoka agree to new contract

CUPE 2481 and Leisureworld Muskoka have reached a new, three-year collective agreement. Both parties have ratified the contract.

CUPE represents 100 nursing, dietary and housekeeping staff at the Ontario long-term care facility. Their new contract includes a 7.25 per cent wage increase over three years and improvements to shift premiums and bereavement leave.

Join December 10 action for women’s equality

The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), in concert with an ad hoc group of national and regional organizations, has launched a month-long campaign for women’s equality and human rights.

Recent federal government decisions that hurt women include the removal of the word equality and the barring of all advocacy and lobbying by women’s groups who receive federal funds; a 40 per cent cut to the budget of Status of Women Canada; the cancellation of the Court Challenges Program; the refusal to adopt improved pay equity legislation; and the cancellation of a national child care program.

The campaign continues to December 10, International Human Rights Day. CUPE members are urged to add their voices to the outcry against cuts and changes that will hurt women and their families.

Meanwhile, CUPE has written a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling on him to support an initiative to create the United Nation’s International Agency for Women.