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National child care program: high cost, little choice for parents

February 6 marks the fifth anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cancellation of a national child care program. Child care advocates and women’s groups have a message for the government: Canada urgently needs a public system of early childhood education and care.

In 2006 the Conservatives’ first act in government was to terminate federal-provincial agreements that would have established a new $1 billion a year national program. Instead the government is spending twice as much on its substitute Universal Child Care Benefit, which pays $100 a month to parents for each child under age six. However fees for infant care in some Canadian cities can be higher than $1,200 a month.

A decline in growth of regulated child care spaces has made finding good child care even harder. Many families are forced to rely on unregulated care and on the growing for-profit child care sector. In 2008 there were regulated child care spaces for just 20 per cent of 0-5 year- olds, with rural communities and children with special needs even more poorly served. International child care studies rank Canada behind even the United States and Australia.

Nova Scotia Highway Workers’ Union welcomes asphalt initiative

The Nova Scotia Highway Workers’ Union is welcoming the provincial government’s initiative to bring some of the province’s asphalt and chip seal work in-house. CUPE Local 1867 president Gareth Drinnan says, “Our union has been telling previous governments for years that our members can do quality work at a reasonable cost. We are glad to see the current government is interested in thinking outside of the box a little, especially if it will mean cost savings for taxpayers.

CUPE Nova Scotia president Danny Cavanagh, meanwhile, says, “We are a little disappointed, but not surprised, at the reaction from the Road Builders Association who don’t seem to be too interested in saving taxpayers money. Twenty years ago the province had its own asphalt plant, which produced a world class product. Previous governments chose to contract out that work and Nova Scotians should be asking themselves if the quality of our roads has gotten any better since that happened.”

Morton, PC government out of step with Albertans on CPP – poll

Two out of three Albertans want their provincial government to work with other provinces to increase Canada Pension Plan benefits, and 77 per cent of Albertans believe CPP benefit increases should be the first priority for improving retirement security for all Canadians, according to a new poll released on February 4. Environics Research Group completed the survey in early January for CUPE in the wake of Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s abrupt announcement late last year of the Conservative government’s intentions to delay CPP enhancements.

The opinion survey shows only 32 per cent of Albertans agree with their provincial government’s opposition to increased CPP benefits. Meanwhile, 56 per cent believe both federal and provincial governments are moving too slowly in making changes to Canada’s pension system – a significantly higher number than the Canadian average of 48 per cent reported in a companion CUPE-Environics poll released this week.

Positions put forward by key Progressive Conservatives, like former Finance Minister Ted Morton, are clearly out of step with the views of Albertans,” says Paul Moist. “The government needs to realize what most Canadians already have—that a gradual increase of CPP premiums paid by workers and employers to increase benefits is the best option for improving retirement security.”

For the complete poll with questions and result, and for the results of CUPE’s companion national pension poll go to: http://cupe.ca/cpp/morton-pc-government-step-albertans-cpp.

B.C. Community Social Services workers to Krueger: Give us a fair deal!

British Columbia’s 15,000 community social service workers—including 2,500 CUPE members—are asking their supporters to contact their local MLA and Social Development minister Kevin Krueger to demand a fair deal. The unions representing community social services workers have launched a website at www.cssfairdeal.ca. Please visit the site and send an e-mail to Minister Krueger (and your local MLA) demanding fairness for CSS workers!

CUPE reaches tentative agreement with Port Hawkesbury nursing home

CUPE Local 3630 has reached a tentative agreement in bargaining with the Port Hawkesbury nursing home. CUPE National Representative John Evans says, “Given that we were in a strike countdown, this is a positive development. We were able to get a deal with the help of a Conciliator from the Department of Labour.” No details of the agreement will be released until after ratification.

CUPE BC launches campaign to support Ten Percent Shift

CUPE BC’s Ten Percent Shift campaign took a big step forward on February 3 with the launch of the campaign website, www.tenpercentshift.ca, along with a Facebook page that will offer British Columbians the opportunity to help improve local economies all over the province.

Visitors to the site can take the Ten Percent Shift pledge, agreeing to shift ten per cent of their household purchases towards locally manufactured goods and services from locally owned independent businesses. O’Neill will be touring the province over the coming months to promote the Ten Percent Shift.

CUPE asks Minister Strahl to reconsider on-board aviation security changes

CUPE, which represents 9,000 flight attendants, is denouncing changes to the prohibited items list (PIL) that would reduce the security and safety of passengers and flight attendants on planes. The changes, announced on February 3 by Federal Transport Minister Chuck Strahl, will make the PIL less restrictive, allowing passengers to bring scissors and other potentially dangerous items on-board.

“There are also more effective alternative solutions without sacrificing current security standards, says Paul Moist in a January 28 letter to Federal Transport Minister Chuck Strahl. It is not the time to be less vigilant about security.” CUPE feels prudence is appropriate in this matter and is asking Minister Strahl and the Harper government to consult extensively with appropriate stakeholders and reconsider the decision.

Toronto Hydro brass caught in cover-up about surveillance of union official

CUPE Local One, the union representing workers at Toronto Hydro, is calling for new leadership at the utility after documents obtained through a freedom of information request proved that top management lied about hiring private investigators to tail Joe Pessoa, the union’s Health and Safety Representative.

In June 2010, union officials received a tip about the surveillance and sent a letter to Anthony Haines, CEO of Toronto Hydro, asking him to confirm or deny the information. Mr. Haines replied through Ave Lethbridge (Vice-President, Organizational Effectiveness and Environment, Health and Safety; and Toronto Hydro’s Integrity Officer). The employer’s letter stated that the allegations were “completely untrue” and that “there is no such surveillance investigation underway”.

Internal Hydro documents, received by CUPE Local One on January 21, 2011, confirmed that Toronto Hydro had conducted extensive surveillance of the union Health and Safety Representative. The surveillance was conducted by teams of up to three private investigators working as many as 13 hours a day.

By hiring private investigators to follow a union official, Toronto Hydro is committing a serious breach of labour relations, a violation of the union’s rights under the law and a violation of the rights of members to be represented by union officials who are not subject to intimidation by the employer,” said John Camilleri, president of CUPE Local One. “Toronto Hydro management’s use of these extreme tactics is part of its ongoing efforts to silence the voice of CUPE Local One members on health and safety issues in our workplace. This is just the latest in a long list of tactics designed to silence worker opposition to unsafe cost-cutting measures by the employer.”

Increased tuition fees not the way to go - CUPE Nova Scotia

The president of CUPE Nova Scotia, Danny Cavanagh, says he’s disappointed the province has decided to remove the freeze on tuitions and introduce a cap of three per cent. “CUPE members do not just work at universities in Nova Scotia. They attend universities on a part-time and full-time basis. Our 18,000 members pay the fees so their sons and daughters can attend universities or colleges. They are parents with younger children who worry about whether their children will be able to get a post-secondary education.

Barb Moore, president of CUPE Local 3912, which represents TAs and part-time faculty at Dal, SMU and MSVU, says, “As for the four per cent cut in funding to universities, we certainly don’t think the reductions should come at the expense of front line staff like TAs, or full and part-time faculty.

Harper government CPP delay opposed by Canadians—poll

Eighty per cent of Canadians believe increasing Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits should be the Harper government’s first priority for improving retirement security, and 81 per cent say CPP should be an important issue in the next federal election, according to a new national poll released on February 2.

The opinion survey also shows a majority of Canadians oppose delays by the federal government in improving CPP. Over 50 per cent are against the decision by the Harper Conservatives to delay increasing CPP benefits in favour of private pooled pension plans for individuals who can afford to make contributions. Only 38 per cent support the move.

Support for improving CPP crosses all political stripes. Seventy-four per cent of respondents who identified themselves as Conservatives agree that increasing CPP benefits should be the Harper government’s first priority for improving retirement security for Canadians. That’s only slightly below the national average. Conservative voters also say reform efforts are moving too slowly at the same level as the national result.

For the complete poll with questions and results, go to: http://cupe.ca/cpp/harper-government-cpp-delay-opposed.

Licensed Practical Nurses at Braemore Home in Sydney welcome review

CUPE 1478, the union representing Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) at Braemore Home in Sydney, says it welcomes the announcement from the minister of community services that a full program and operational review of the facility will take place. CUPE National Representative John Evans says, “Like other frontline staff at the home, the LPNs would like to set the record straight on recent events and we are hopeful that this review will do that. We are also happy to see that the minister has agreed that governance of the facility will be part of the review process.”

The ITUC welcomes Egypt’s new independent trade union federation

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has announced its strong support for the Egyptian opposition’s call for a general strike in favour of democracy and fundamental rights. The opposition’s move follows the call for a general strike by the country’s newly established independent trade union centre.

The new trade union centre, which brings together existing independent unions of health sector employees and tax inspectors as well as worker representatives from the country’s key manufacturing locations, public employees and other sectors, announced its formation at a meeting on January 30 at Tahrir Square in Cairo and immediately issued the general-strike call. It also announced the formation of committees in workplaces across the country to protect workplace infrastructure.

The ITUC General Council meeting in Brussels this week will decide on measures to assist the Tunisian and Egyptian union movements to press for democratic transition and full respect for workers’ rights.

CUPE celebrates Black History Month!

CUPE is proud to mark the beginning of Black History Month. Every February CUPE members across the country take time to recognize contributions made by Canadians of African origin to our union and our country.

CUPE celebrates Black History Month as part of our commitment to promoting an active and inclusive union that values every member,” said Paul Moist and Claude Généreux. “Black members in our union play a key role in fighting for equality in the workplace.”
Events will be taking place across the country. Keep an eye on CUPE.ca for updates.

CUPE and Medicine Hat School District to sign historic first contract

CUPE and the Medicine Hat School Division signed a first contract for approximately 170 Teaching Assistants and Day Care Workers on February 2. CUPE Local 829 president Jake Braaten said that while CUPE represents other employees in the schools, the Teaching Assistants are a new group that recently voted to join the union. The collective agreement includes better job security and wages for employees, and converts a number of previously temporary employees to permanent status.

Big CUPE contingent joins mass rally supporting locked out Hamilton steelworkers

CUPE members came from all corners of the province on January 29 to march in support of locked out workers at the U.S. Steel operations in Hamilton, Ontario. The demonstration was the largest union protest in Ontario since the Days of Action in 1996 against the Mike Harris government. CUPE members joined the massive crowd of activists, jamming the city’s downtown core. Organizers predicted that 6,000 would attend the demonstration. In fact, crowd estimates ranged from 9,000 to more than 10,000.

Last November, U.S. Steel locked out workers in an attempt to gut their pension plan. Underlying the dispute is the failure of the U.S. company to follow undertakings made to respect the collective agreement in force when it bought the mill from Stelco several years ago.

The Harper Government was singled out during the demonstration for failing to protect Canadian workers’ jobs and their pension plans. The Steelworkers and others unions will take this message to Ottawa on May 1 when they plan to demonstrate on Parliament Hill.

View the CUPE photo album at: http://cupe.ca/gallery2/v/Hamilton+day+of+Action/.

CUPE helps secure multi-million training fund for B.C. LPNs, care aides

Licensed Practical Nurses and care aides in B.C. will benefit from $2.5 million in new training funds to ensure that they are more effectively used in acute and continuing care settings.Over the past decade, CUPE’s Health Services Division in B.C., the 43,000-member Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), has mounted an extensive lobby campaign to address training needs for LPNs and care aides to help solve skills shortages in the province’s health system. This latest win comes as a result of an agreement the union secured with employers around training issues in HEU’s last round of bargaining.

Chief nursing officers and human resource executives from all of the province’s health authorities supported the union’s efforts. While health authorities will have the overall responsibility for projects and distribution of the $2.5 million training fund, HEU will provide input and receive reports on how the money is put to work.

The funding must be spent to: provide education and training for acute care aides; enhance clinical competencies for care aides and LPNs in residential care, develop LPN leadership in residential care; and provide training for LPNs in renal, emergency, mental health, maternity and peri-operative specialties. For more details, visit the HEU Website at: http://www.heu.org/MemberNews/2011/01/Newsletter6984/index.cfm?call2=HOMEPAGE&type=3


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