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CUPE’s priorities for next Federal Budget

National President Paul Moist met this week with the Standing Committee on Finance to present CUPE’s recommendations and priorities for the 2007-2008 Federal Budget.

Competitiveness and productivity should not be pursued as goals or ends in themselves, but only in terms of whether they improve our overall quality of life,” Moist told the committee.

CUPE’s priorities for the next Federal Budget include:

  • Making federal spending and tax measures more transparent, accountable and democratic;
  • Reducing inequality by reforming the employment insurance system, increasing social transfers, reforming equalization and making work pay;
  • Increasing federal transfers for post-secondary education;
  • Investment in quality and affordable child care;
  • Strengthening Canada’s public health care;
  • Honouring commitments to Aboriginal Canadians;
  • Proactive environmental measures;
  • Increased public investments in infrastructure.

Cuts reveal Tory agenda for women and court challenges

CUPE reacted swiftly and strongly this week to the government’s announcement that it would be cutting social programs to save $2 billion over the next 2 years.

Likely the money from these programs will be designated for some type of tax cut that the Harper Conservatives will announce in the next federal election – probably sometime this spring,” said National President Paul Moist.

When we look at just two of these program cuts – $5 million from the Status of Women and $5.6 million from the court challenges program – a clear message is being sent. The government is essentially saying that any voice given to addressing gender inequality in this country will be further silenced. Furthermore, any voices wanting to challenge the current status of the laws of this land will be muzzled,” added Moist.

It was under the court challenges program that CUPE successfully argued for equal rights for same sex partners with regards to employer sponsored pension plans and pension benefits.

These program cuts may seem small in context of the billions that the government has been shaving off of other public services, but their significance is huge,” concluded Moist.

Time for a federal anti-scab law

An October vote in the House of Commons could see a ban on scabs in federally-regulated workplaces.

Private members’ bills that would make it illegal for employers to hire workers to replace striking union members will come to a vote in October, beginning with Bill C-257.

Recent sessions of Parliament have seen two other anti-scab private members’ bills. One of these was defeated by only 12 votes.

With the current volatile minority government, the balance could easily swing. But only if MPs hear from their constituents about why we need a federal anti-scab law.

Please write to your MP. Be sure to write your own message. Your MP’s staff will ignore your message if it seems like a form letter.

CUPE supports national drug plan strategy

CUPE welcomed last week’s Progress Report on the National Pharmaceutical Strategy (NPS) and supports the work to develop a strategy that will lead to more equitable access, better health care outcomes and better value for money spent on prescription drugs.

Canadians have waited long enough,” said National President Paul Moist. “We need a national pharmacare program. Canada and the U.S. are the only two industrialized countries without a national public drug plan. Justice Emmett Hall recommended that medicare be expanded to include universal drug coverage in 1964. We’ve waited long enough!”

We want a pharmacare program that will increase access for all Canadians,” said Claude Généreux, CUPE national secretary-treasurer. “But we also know that pharmacare will help relieve the rapidly increasing pressure on our negotiated benefits plans. This gives us common cause with our employers on this issue.”

CUPE is calling on the federal government to commit financial resources to the development of a national pharmacare program. CUPE and its health care coalition partners have developed a position paper called “More for Less: a National Pharmacare Program” (available at www.healthcoalition.ca/moreforless.pdf) which outlines their proposals.

Flight staff ratio to remain at 1:40

Airline passengers in Canada can feel a little more secure, thanks in part to a vigorous four-year CUPE campaign. Last week, Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon announced that he will not cut flight attendant minimum crews on aircraft with more than 50 seats, something the industry has been lobbying for.

This has been a long struggle,” said Pamela Sachs, president of CUPE’s Air Canada component, representing 8,750 cabin personnel.

In declaring that the government would not be tabling amendments to reduce flight attendant requirements, Cannon informed the House of Commons that “the Conservative government is committed to aviation safety and we recognize the important contribution that flight attendants make, particularly in emergency evacuations…”

Minister Cannon is to be congratulated for rejecting the advice of Transport Canada bureaucrats who have been urging him to adopt an industry sponsored proposal to cut flight attendant staffing levels by up to 25 per cent,” said Sachs. “It’s only common sense that fewer flight attendants means lower safety and more risk for passengers, especially in the post-9/11 era.”

Saskatchewan health care facilities to receive Certificates of Achievement

The dietary staff working in nine health facilities in Saskatchewan will be stepping out of the kitchen and into the limelight Oct. 5, as they are honoured for their commitment to food excellence, public service and community spirit.

CUPE Saskatchewan’s health care council is presenting the Certificates of Achievement in three categories on Communities Day.

The awards recognize dietary staff and health care facilities who prepare nutritious meals, go the extra distance to improve the quality of life for patients and residents, and buy locally to support the community.

Good, nutritious food is important to all of us,” said health care council president Gordon Campbell. “But it’s particularly important to hospital patients recovering from surgeries and elderly residents living in long-term care facilities.”

This year’s recipients of the Food Excellence Award are: Moosomin Union Hospital, Whispering Pine Place in Canwood, Jubilee Lodge in Kinistino, Lloydminster Hospital, Northland Pioneer Lodge in Meadow Lake and Wheatland Lodge in Leask.

Broadview Union Hospital and the Evergreen Health Centre in Leoville will receive the Supporting the Local Community Certificate.

The People’s Choice Certificate will go to the dietary staff at Eastern Saskatchewan Pioneer Lodge in Moosomin.

Nova Scotia child care announcement called “drop in the bucket”

This week’s announcement from Nova Scotia Community Services Minister Judy Streatch about 150 new child care spaces for the entire province is being called a drop in the bucket by CUPE.

This announcement simply confirms what child care workers already feared, that the current government has no clue what it is going to take to build a child care system for Nova Scotians that will meet the needs of working families,” said CUPE NS president Danny Cavanagh. CUPE is the province’s largest child care union.

It also sends a message to child care workers, who are miserably underpaid in this province, that they should not expect any improvements in their wages or working conditions from the MacDonald government,” he says.

CUPE NS recently released a comprehensive research report on child care which showed that in 2003-04, there were only enough child care spaces to accommodate 14.8 per cent of children 0-12 years of age whose mothers were in the workforce. Nova Scotia had the third lowest percentage among the 10 provinces, and was well below the national average of 24.4 per cent.

Child care workers in Nova Scotia were among the highest trained in the country, but the lowest paid.

At $149, the Nova Scotia government’s expenditure per child for regulated care was a mere 30 per cent of the national average expenditure of $500 per child.

Flipping pancakes for education

Custodial workers at Edmonton’s Public Schools hosted a pancake breakfast and demonstration in front of school board offices this week.

CUPE 474 president Doug Luellman said the event is to express frustration with the slow pace of contract negotiations between the union and the school board. Staffing levels are a key issue in the dispute.

We are asking the school district to set minimum levels of custodial service in our schools,” said Luellman. “This is about making sure schools don’t fall into disrepair in the name of cost cutting.”

Wagg’s Linen workers get new collective agreement

CUPE 3785 and Wagg’s Linen Supply Ltd. in Orillia, Ontario, have reached a new, three-year collective agreement.

I am very pleased that the parties were able to reach a mutual agreement in this round of bargaining,” said local president Norm McIntosh following the ratification vote. “Members are pleased that they achieved improvements with no concessions.”

The deal includes new provisions for paid sick leave, guaranteed hours of work, an increase in lieu days and an overall wage increase of 7 per cent over three years.

Arranglen Gardens’ care aides ratify first collective agreement

After nine months of difficult negotiations with Pro Vita Care Management–including a strike mandate in mid-July and the employer’s threat to terminate its contract – care aides at Arranglen Gardens in Qualicum Beach, B.C., have ratified a first collective agreement.

The new contract includes an immediate wage hike of 75 cents an hour with a further 50 cent-an-hour increase on Sept. 1, 2007. It also allows members to accumulate up to 100 hours of sick leave. Any accumulations over 100 hours will be paid out on Jan. 17 of each year.

The bargaining committee reports an exceptionally high turnout at the ratification vote, where 63 per cent of the membership cast their ballots in favour of the tentative contract.

The results of this vote show that members understood the extreme restrictions their bargaining committee was operating within,” says Susan Fisher, bargaining spokesperson for the Hospital Employees’ Union. “But they also wanted to give their employer a clear message that they know the value of their work and will build on this first contract in the next round of negotiations.”

The first contract provides workers and residents with stability, as Arranglen Gardens prepares to move to a new facility in November. And members were able to put a stop to the employer’s attempt to introduce a two-tier wage and vacation policy.

Trois-Rivières university TAs sign agreement

Teaching assistants at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières have signed a new five-year collective agreement.

The new contract foresees wage increases and improved benefits, including long-term disability insurance and new computer equipment.

Each year, the university hires some 400 TAs, represented by CUPE 2661.