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CUPE takes action to end violence against women, marks December 6

The special date marks the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique shootings, in which fourteen women were singled out for their gender and murdered. One of the women was a CUPE member. “December 6 is an occasion to reaffirm CUPE’s commitment to the broader struggle for women’s equality,” said Paul Moist and Claude Généreux in a joint letter to members.

CUPE has taken several steps to address women’s issues even in the past few months, introducing a new Code of Conduct for conventions and national meetings, supporting a UN international petition which garnered over one million actions, and supporting CUPE Manitoba’s Respect campaign which developed a video highlighting the work of CUPE members who work in organizations that support abused women.

At the Eastman Crisis Shelter, CUPE members support abused women and draw awareness to their plight. On December 6 the shelter hosted a series of candlelight vigils to mark the occasion. In Winnipeg, a candlelight walk was held from the Union Centre to the Legislature and followed by a luncheon to raise money for Winnipeg Harvest and the MFL Women’s Memorial Fund.

In Ottawa, guest speaker Rashida Collins of the Native Women’s Association of Canada joined Paul Moist for a special ceremony. Collins spoke about the Sisters in Spirit campaign, which has sought to raise awareness for missing or murdered Aboriginal women and girls. In Toronto, following a recommendation from CUPE’s National Women’s Committee, the Ontario Federation of Labour co-sponsored special workshops focusing on new violence and harassment language in the Ontario Health and Safety Act.

In Quebec, CUPE members participated in events coordinated by the Fédération des Femmes du Québec (FFQ) including a rally in downtown Montreal. In New Brunswick, the CUPE NB Women’s Committee asked members to wear purple to mark the day. On Prince Edward Island, Lori MacKay, a member of CUPE’s National Women’s Committee, spoke at a special memorial service on behalf of the PEI Federation of Labour.

International Human Rights Day – December 10

In the last few years, the mainstream media and the government have been relentless in their attacks against Canada’s values of equality and inclusiveness enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights laws. The federal Conservative government has been dismantling the very systems that promote human rights and equality. The following are a few examples:

Court Challenges Program - funding discontinued, affecting women, persons with disabilities and other equality-seeking groups seeking legal recourse for systemic discrimination; Canadian Human Rights Commission - office closures in cities with large number of registered complaints and where racialized communities numbers are high; and Immigration and Refugee Act - changes punish migrant workers, refugees and newcomers.

CUPE BC organized a human rights conference last month to educate and challenge members about human rights and the importance of upholding these in their own communities and regions. The Canadian Labour Congress is hosting Rise UP for Your Rights, a human rights conference in December 2010, to challenge the Conservative government’s changing laws. CUPE AB is also organizing an Anti-Racism conference ‘Many Faces – Different Cultures’ to be held January 14-16, 2011, in Calgary.

CUPE participation at UN conference on climate change

CUPE was an active member of the International Trade Union Conference (ITUC) delegation at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancun from November 29 to December 10. One of CUPE’s main objectives at the conference was to ensure that language used in the ITUC’s Just Transition and Decent Work policies is kept within the Shared Vision section of the UNFCCC’s Copenhagen deal. CUPE was coordinating this effort with the Canadian Labour Congress.

The CUPE delegation was also immersed in presentations and discussions with international labour colleagues at the World of Work (WOW) Pavilion, organized by the ITUC. WOW was a separate labour event that ran at the same time as the formal climate change negotiations. The high water mark was Anabella Rosemberg’s talk “Trade Unions and Climate Change”. Rosemberg is the environment and sustainability officer with the ITUC, based in Brussels. She urged trade unionists to work to ensure that an international agreement on climate change is worker-compatible.

CUPE joined other labour, environmental and social justice delegates who held a summit to discuss mobilizing for action on climate change on December 4. The summit was put together by the Cornell Global Labor Institute and featured prominent panellists from Canada, Argentina and the United States. Claude Généreux spoke at the event. He provided delegates with a clear example of a co-operation by describing some of the work CUPE does on water issues with the Council of Canadians. Généreux also talked about the workers’ readiness to help build a more sustainable, climate-stable society.

COP16: Who is Canada hiding behind today?

As the second and most critical week of the Cancun climate change conference got underway, CUPE stated that the Harper government must stop hiding behind others to justify its dismal record on climate change.

“Every day, we ask ourselves who Canada will be hiding behind next to justify its inaction,” said Claude Généreux, from the conference. “One day, the Canadian government says it is waiting for the U.S. to establish targets – knowing full well that the context with the new Congress is not favourable. The next day they say we are waiting for China and developing countries to do more. And now, Harper and environment minister Baird are hiding behind Japan and Russia in their opposition to the renewal of the Kyoto protocol. Who will we hide behind tomorrow?”

The Canadian government says it is favourable to a new treaty that would include binding targets for all countries, and that without them it would oppose new rules. According to Généreux this really means that the Conservatives are looking for an excuse to kill Kyoto. “Our union demands that the Canadian government stop its strategy of passive obstruction and engage in these talks in good faith.”

PEI’s finance minister supports enhancement to the Canada Pension Plan

Ahead of an important meeting of federal and provincial finance ministers later in December, PEI is the latest provincial government to signal its support for expanded Canada Pension Plan benefits. “Finance Minister Wes Sheridan announced in the legislature yesterday, his support to the labour campaign to improve the CPP”, said CUPE PEI Division President, Milo Murray. “CUPE PEI met with the Minister back in September, to explain why we are advocating a doubling of Canada Pension Plan benefits over a period of seven years.”

In a related story, CUPE New Brunswick is calling on Finance Minister Blaine Higgs, to follow PEI’s lead on the Canadian Pension Plan. “Last month, we met with Minister Higgs to discuss the need to double over a seven-year period the Canada Pension Plan benefits,” said CUPE NB President, Daniel Légère. “We are asking Minister Higgs to support the position of his colleagues from the Atlantic Provinces at the next Finance Ministers’ meeting.”

The government just announced this week a Task Force on Protecting Pension Plans so that the employees have access to their pension when they retire. We believe it should go a step further and support an increase in the CPP benefits so that every worker could count on a decent, secure income in retirement”, concluded Légère.

Ban Asbestos Canada offers support to Asia Solidarity Delegation

On December 9, CUPE joined several other unions in issuing a statement calling for a ban on Canadian exports of asbestos. Ban Asbestos Canada and its supporting organizations which represent workers from across Canada, stands in full solidarity with the Asia Solidarity Delegation to Canada.

The group is calling on the Canadian government to end all exports of asbestos to south Asia, Mexico, and the global south and condemns efforts to expand and reopen the Jeffrey mine in Quebec. Tonnes of exported Quebec asbestos will kill tens of thousands of workers around the world. The group is calling on Premier Charest of Quebec to reject the asbestos industry demands for $58 million of Quebec taxpayer funds to expand their deadly trade.

PEI government backs down on degree granting legislation

CUPE PEI is pleased with the government’s decision to delay plans to introduce a new Degree Granting Act, which would have opened the door to private degree granting post-secondary institutions in the province. The proposed legislation would have cleared the way for real estate developer Richard Homburg to establish a private university that would have granted Master’s degrees in real estate.

Premier Robert Ghiz hopes the two parties, UPEI and Richard Homburg, can come to an agreement on this issue. If they fail, the government says it’s prepared to introduce the new Degree Granting Act come spring. CUPE PEI had been asking for a full public consultation on this important piece of legislation. The government’s decision to postpone the proposed legislation came after a public outcry on this issue.

Canada’s children not for sale

CUPE is sounding the alarm about a new company called Edleun Group, which has set up shop in Canada with a goal to own ten per cent of the Canadian child care market. CUPE’s
Research branch has uncovered the story behind the Edleun Group.

This could be a major shift for Canada where child care is primarily operated on a non-profit basis that reflects the needs of children instead of shareholders. Today in Canada there is a mix of for-profit, non-profit and public child care services providing a patchwork of services. Until now even the for-profit Canadian child care businesses have remained relatively small, privately owned operations. Edleun is the first publicly traded, child care corporation in Canada.

Child care advocates have learned that a market approach to child care simply doesn’t work. And while there are many good non-profit child care programs that have been the backbone of Canada’s child care services for decades, CUPE believes a public system would bring greater access, affordability and quality. Learn more about Edleun Group and its attempt to expand big box child care in Canada at: http://cupe.ca/child-care/edleun-inc-aggressive-pursuit-profits.

Ontario Auditor General’s report identifies symptoms, misses privatization cause

The Auditor General’s report released on December 7, identifies symptoms, but misses privatization as cause of health care’s ‘profound problems’, says CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. “Overcrowding, inadequate and uneven resourcing across the province, wait lists are connected. Those symptoms have been greatly aggravated by the so-called ‘medicine’ of privatization successive Tory and Liberal governments prescribed as a cure-all.”

Hahn urges the Auditor General to look more closely at the impact of privatization on Ontario’s health care system. “Ontarians would benefit from a focused review by the Auditor General of the impact of waste and inefficiency that privatization and contracting out have had on the health care sector as a whole.” 

HEU’s Living Wage Campaign gaining community support in B.C.

The Living Wage Campaign—an organized effort to raise awareness of poverty and the cost of living in B.C.—is gaining momentum in local communities, thanks to the support of the Hospital Employees’ Union. Last month, community organization First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition held its first “Citizens Series on Health webinar” – A Living Wage: One Path to Addressing Income and Poverty as Determinants of Health – with a focus on northern communities.

Several city councils in different parts of the province—like Esquimalt, Cowichan, Williams Lake and Cranbrook—are calculating a living wage or looking ways to implement one. Living wage calculations reflect the basic cost of living for a family of four with two young children, with both parents working full-time. The hourly rate assumes the employer pays no benefits.

According to research by First Call and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the living wage calculation in Metro Vancouver is $18.17 an hour, and $17.31 an hour in Victoria.

PEI takes away paramedics right to strike

In an unexpected and unprecedented move, the PEI government introduced amendments to the Labour Act to take away the right to strike of the paramedics. “We were at the bargaining table when we got word that amendments were coming down at the Legislature to include paramedics and emergency dispatchers to the list of essential services providers”, said Bill McKinnon, CUPE coordinator for the Island paramedics.

Ontario Works workers ask Peel residents to contact new council

CUPE Local 966, representing 466 Ontario Works workers in Peel Region, met with a Ministry of Labour conciliator on December 6, to achieve a fair contract after talks with management failed to reach a collective agreement. The union has been in negotiation since this summer and held a strike vote in early October with 93 per cent of members giving a strike mandate to their bargaining team. At issue are many security complaints ignored by management, who want to restructure operations unilaterally.

City of Kamloops workers approve three-year deal

CUPE 900 members ratified a three-year agreement with the City of Kamloops, B.C., on December 6. The agreement includes two per cent increases in each year as well as improvements to dental benefits. Contract language was also clarified and updated. CUPE 900 president Gayle Nelson has received a lot of feedback from members who are pleased with the agreement. She praised the good working relationship between the City and CUPE members. The union began bargaining in October. Council ratified the agreement last week.

Sherbrooke blue-collar workers file notice of 13-day general strike

After almost three years without a collective agreement, blue-collar workers in Sherbrooke, Quebec, filed a strike notice with the Essential Services Council on December 8. The general strike could begin on December 26 at 12:01 a.m. and end on January 7 at 11:59 p.m. On November 12, the workers examined the most recent offer from the City and rejected it by 97 per cent. They then submitted a compromise offer that included a letter of agreement guaranteeing that the Canada Games would be held without disturbance. The City rejected their offer on November 23. They have been working without a contract since December 31, 2007.

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