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Our voices rising: National Human Rights Conference

The registration deadline for CUPE’s first National Human Rights Conference is approaching fast. People have until Oct. 27 to register for this historic gathering.

The conference takes place Nov. 23-26 in beautiful Vancouver, B.C. The exciting lineup of keynote speakers includes:

  • Anita Braha and Kiké Roach, human rights lawyers;
  • Dr. Sherene Razack, the University of Toronto sociology professor and author of several books on racism and violence, including Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism;
  • Itrath Syed, B.C. community and social justice activist and former federal New Democratic Party candidate.

They and other speakers will provide expert analyses on the complexities of human rights issues and direction on strategies to strengthen our communities.

Delegates will participate in workshops that will allow them to share experiences, choose priorities from among today’s human rights issues, and develop strategies for working together with equality-seeking groups and allies.

Locals are encouraged to send delegates from equality-seeking groups, young members and allies in the human rights struggle. All members are welcome to attend. Visit www.cupe.ca or contact equality@cupe.ca for a full agenda and registration details.

CUPE university activists meet in Montreal

CUPE hosted a conference on postsecondary education in Montreal Oct. 12-14. Delegates discussed funding as well as bargaining strategies for postsecondary workers.

Highlights included speeches by French student leader and social activist Bruno Julliard and by Harvard University labour law specialist Elaine Bernard, and a discussion on postsecondary education funding featuring Erika Shaker from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

CUPE represents nearly 70,000 postsecondary workers across Canada.

CUPE 1190 signs collective agreement

CUPE 1190 has signed a new five-year collective agreement with the New Brunswick government.

The collective agreement, ratified by the membership late this summer, includes wage increases totalling 15 per cent for the length of the contract, which is retroactive to December 2003.

The members have been very supportive during this long process,” said Andy Hardy, president of CUPE 1190. We are satisfied with the agreement, which maintains the job security clause for our members.”

The local represents more than 1,700 trades and general workers in the transportation tourism, natural resources and supply and services departments, as well as in community colleges.

Strike countdown begins for Nova Scotia hospital workers

Contract talks for some 3,300 hospital workers in 33 hospitals across Nova Scotia have broken off, setting the wheels in motion for a possible province-wide strike.

We sat down this week with the employers in a serious attempt to resolve the outstanding issues in this dispute,” said CUPE NS hospital coordinator Wayne Thomas. “There simply was no willingness on their part to address any of the major issues. They told us they have no mandate from the provincial government, from which they receive their funding, to find a negotiated settlement.”

The outstanding issues are wages, pensions and health and retiree benefits. CUPE represents technical, clerical and service workers in the 33 hospitals. They had already voted 76 per cent in favour of strike action if they cannot reach a negotiated settlement.

Civic workers celebrate Kamloops award

CUPE municipal workers in Kamloops, B.C. have a lot to be proud of. Their city has been awarded the prestigious Silver Canada Award of Excellence (CAE) Quality Award from the National Quality Institute in Toronto.

Kamloops is one of only three cities in Canada that has received this award and the first in Western Canada.

We are extremely proud of the quality work we do to provide top notch city services to our community,” says Mel Hale, president of CUPE 900. “This award has recognized our efforts and we’re happy about that.”

NQI experts audited city operations and services and measured them against high standards related to excellence in leadership, planning, citizen and client focus, people focus, process management, supplier/partner focus and overall organizational performance.

Hale will join city councillors and senior officials to receive the award in Toronto on Oct. 24.

Manitoba ARAMARK workers vote to strike

Nutrition services workers for ARAMARK Canada Ltd. voted last week to take job action in negotiations for a new collective agreement. The 21 workers provide dietary support in the Minnedosa Hospital and Personal Care Home.

The main issue is an agreement on wage increases and new benefits. CUPE negotiated a wage standardization agreement for other healthcare support workers in the Assiniboine Regional Health Authority (ARHA) last year. ARAMARK, a private company, was not involved in that agreement.

We’re only asking for what other comparable workers are getting throughout the region,” said Glenda Smith, CUPE national representative. ARAMARK workers are paid significantly less than their counterparts within the ARHA.

If the employer does not change its position, the workers will stop work Oct. 16.

CUPE represents about 9,000 workers in the Manitoba health system.

Sunset Services employees poised to strike

Employees of Sunset Services, a residential care facility in Pugwash, N.S., voted 92 per cent in favour of strike action if necessary.

A conciliator filed a report Oct. 6 saying a negotiated settlement could not be reached, beginning a 14-day countdown to a legal strike deadline.

The 100 members of CUPE 972 are residential counsellors and support services staff at the facility.

One of the major issues is the employer’s position that a higher shift and weekend premium negotiated as part of a provincial settlement does not apply to casuals.

UBC needs accountable governance

The University of British Columbia community deserves an elected and accountable governance system that is integrated into the City of Vancouver. That is a key recommendation CUPE 116 has made to a Greater Vancouver Regional District/UBC joint committee.

CUPE 116 represents maintenance, trades, food services, security and custodial staff at UBC. Local president Colleen Garbe said that without elected municipal representation, UBC can’t process conflicts openly and with community accountability.

We believe that incorporation into the City of Vancouver is the best option,” said Garbe. “It would offer maximum opportunity for students, residents, workers, community groups and others on campus to have authentic political input into university governance and broader community development.”

UBC’s integration into the City of Vancouver would not only bring greater political accountability, it would help put the campus on track to meet the goals and objectives of safeguarding UBC’s physical assets and maintaining a sustainable campus community,” said CUPE BC president Barry O’ Neill.

October 20: Celebrate Tommy Douglas and medicare

October 20 is the birthday of Tommy Douglas – Canada’s “greatest Canadian”, according to a 2005 CBC poll.

CUPE members are asked to celebrate Douglas’ contributions to Canada’s social programs, especially our national public health care system. Visit www.cupe.ca to sign a virtual birthday card and say “thanks, Tommy!”

As our birthday gift, CUPE pledges to continue his work: protecting and improving the funding and delivery of our public health care system, fighting against privatization and two-tier delivery, and creating other national programs like pharmacare and home care for all Canadians.