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Public services won’t be scapegoats

The Economist, an international weekly news magazine, devoted its January 6 edition to attacking public sector workers and their unions. This week, Paul Moist sent a letter to the editor, challenging attempts to blame the global economic crisis on public sector workers.

In his letter Moist said, “A large majority of public sector workers are in health care, social services, schools, and local government, mostly women who are far from highly paid. The average annual pay for the 600,000 members of our union is less than $40,000 a year (£26,000), hardly excessive. Public sector unions focus on improving conditions for low income workers everywhere and push for greater accountability and transparency in public spending—but this is undermined by contracting-out and public private partnerships shielded by commercial confidentiality clauses.

Read the letter at: http://cupe.ca/economics/public-services-wont-scapegoats.

Saskatchewan court signals resounding support for same-sex marriage

A January 10 decision by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals firmly rebuked the Sask Party government’s proposed laws that would have given marriage commissioners the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples on religious grounds. A panel of five judges unanimously agreed that the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act offended the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Among the stronger statements in the decision, Justice Robert Richards said that had the court agreed to the amendments, the effect would have been akin to allowing government officers to tell people ‘I won’t help you because you are black (or Asian or First Nations) but someone else will’.

Now the government is announcing they’re backing down from further attacks on the right for same-sex couples to wed. Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan admitted the government would accept the court’s decision. 

CUPE, coalition allies to challenge Canada-EU trade talks in Brussels

CUPE took the fight against CETA to Europe this week as part of a delegation of Canadians opposed to the deal. A sixth round of negotiations for a “Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement” (CETA) is taking place from January 17 to 21 in Brussels.

CUPE trade policy expert Blair Redlin went to Brussels and Strasbourg as part of the Trade Justice Network, which includes more than a dozen Canadian environmental, labour, Indigenous, farmers, and social justice organizations critical of the CETA negotiations to meet with European decision makers and civil society groups. Read Blair’s personal account:


CUPE and other groups are opposed to the agreement, which is being negotiated behind closed doors by Harper government and EU officials. Key issues are: extensive powers and right given corporations to override the public interest, threats CETA poses to privatize public water, and constraints CETA will put on public procurement practices along with climate and environmental policy in Canada and the EU.

The delegation includes representatives of the Council of Canadians, The Indigenous Environmental Network, the National Farmers Union, and ATTAC-Québec. The Trade Justice Network delegation will monitor the negotiations and meet with European parliamentarians and civil society groups.

Working for change in Burma

CUPE Local 2440 activist Marian White and CUPE international officer Rhonda Spence went to Chiang Mai and in Mae Sot, Thailand, this week to meet with the Burmese Women’s Union General Secretary, youth organizers, members of the Shwe Gas Movement, and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma). The Thai-Burma border region is home to hundreds of thousands of Burmese refugees and migrant workers. The CUPE delegates are learning firsthand about the struggles of the Burmese people and the role Burmese human rights organizations play in pressuring for change inside of Burma.

CUPE Local 2440 initiated the project two years ago and CUPE’s support has provided the opportunity for many Burmese activists to improve their advocacy skills and to put those skills into practice. This week, the first stop was a visit to Network for Environment and Economic Development (NEED) a dynamic project that combines sustainable organic farming with a safe place for Burmese refugees to live and learn skills that will be useful back in Burma.

Through CUPE’s Global Justice Fund, union members are supporting the vital work of Burmese activists and we plan to continue to build our partnership, increase our advocacy work and promote awareness among CUPE members and the Canadian public. Download the form to make a contribution to the CUPE Global Justice Fund at: http://cupe.ca/globaljusticefund/Contribute_to_the_Gl.

Généreux calls for end to Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska lockout

On January 20, CUPE national secretary-treasurer, Claude Généreux, joined sixty union activists at a demonstration in support of two Ste-Anne-de-Madawaska, N.B., municipal employees who have been locked out since June 16, 2010.

Généreux went to tell the locked-out employees that the labour dispute has gone on long enough. “The mayor has prolonged the conflict unnecessarily by refusing to negotiate with his two employees. From the start, the list of demands has kept on growing. We’ve done our part; the time has come to end this lockout. If necessary, we will take legal action to do so. Do not forget that it’s the citizens of Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska who bear the brunt of this dispute.”

Suspend and investigate secret KGH/Compass foodservice deal, says community coalition

Ontario’s health minister must step in and suspend the Kingston General Hospital (KGH) foodservice contract with a factory-food operation and conduct a thorough investigation into the potential infraction of the province’s procurement criteria, says a community coalition opposing the outsourcing deal.

This week, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) sent a letter to Minister Deborah Matthews on behalf of ‘People Who Care About Kingston’ urging her to halt the deal while she reviews key aspects. Copies of the letter were also sent to Ontario’s Auditor General, James McCarter; Environment Minister, John Wilkinson; and Kingston area MPP, John Gerretsen. Read the letter at: http://cupe.ca/food-services/provincial-policy-procurement.

Vote set for B.C. Health Sciences Professionals Bargaining Association

Voting locations and dates have now been set for CUPE members who are part of the Health Sciences Professionals Bargaining Association. For dates and locations, go to: http://cupe.ca/bargaining/vote-set-hspba.

CUPE’s Healthcare President’s Council has been fielding many member questions on the tentative agreement, particularly around changes to Grade I and Grade II positions. “Changes that suspend the definition of General Supervision come into effect on

April 1,” says Frank De Waard, CUPE bargaining committee representative and president of CUPE Local 4816. “Funds saved by this change, along with the loss of one vacation day, will help pay for benefit increases that come into effect in 2012.”

De Waard says that the proposal confirming that moving all Grade 1 to Grade 2 is a priority for future negotiations is not guaranteed and is subject to the allocation of sufficient funding. CUPE’s Healthcare President’s Council recommends a “No” vote on the tentative agreement.

Significant salary adjustments for Montreal white-collar workers

The Syndicat des fonctionnaires municipaux de Montréal (CUPE) is proud to announce that members of the joint committee completed the Pay Equity Program ahead of schedule on December 23. This move was made following an intensive work period and in accordance with the Act, which gave them until December 31, 2010. The union feels the accomplishment is cause for celebration since close to 4,500 white-collar workers will see salary adjustments ranging from 0.53 per cent to 120.03 per cent, in an extremely exceptional case, in other words, nearly 60 per cent of job categories identified as being predominately female out of a total of some 400 different jobs.

What we have just accomplished was a Herculean task. The impressive number of job categories (nearly 800) which needed to be analyzed and the complexity stemming from the number of legal amendments, just to name a few, and the municipal merger/demerger saga suggest that we have just completed the biggest pay equity program in Quebec,” stated Lise Simard, the union representative assigned to this file.

Second University of Windsor union to register a strike vote against contracting out

After enduring a slow pace of contract negotiations, and concession demands by the University of Windsor Administration, CUPE Local 1001 is the second union to vote for a strike in a week. A meeting to report on the progress of negotiations was held on January 16 and resulted in a vote with 93 per cent of members in support of a strike mandate for the bargaining committee.

David Montgomery, president of CUPE Local 1001 said, “The reality is that our number of full-time employees has dropped from roughly 275 two decades ago to 110 today. For years this University has continued to raise student tuitions and fees while reducing services, including those our members provide on a daily basis.”

CAUREQ workers in Rimouski get union certification

The 33 receptionists and emergency dispatch operators at the CAUREQ in Rimouski are now members of CUPE. On November 24, they filed their application with Quebec’s Commission des relations du travail, and on December 16, the workers received official union certification. The next step is to build the democratic structure of their union (CUPE Local 5038) before tackling negotiations for their first-ever collective agreement.

The CAUREQ (Centre d’appels d’urgence de l’Est du Québec) answers all 911 calls in the Lower St. Lawrence, the North Shore and the Gaspé Peninsula. The operators are among the only ones in Quebec to play three roles at once: they answer 911 calls, act as emergency medical responders, and dispatch the fire and emergency services. Until now, the CAUREQ was the province’s only non-unionized 911 call centre.

Mont-Tremblant Casino ratifies agreement in principle

At a general meeting on Monday, employees of the Casino de Mont-Tremblant in Quebec voted 89 per cent in favour of the agreement in principle reached with their employer on January 6. The collective agreement will be a first for the unionized workers. More than 84 per cent of employees exercised their right to vote. The union represents some 100 casino employees, including dealers, security agents, restaurant and customer service staff.

Laval bus drivers vote to accept new contract

Société de transport de Laval (STL) bus drivers in Quebec have a new labour contract. Seventy-six per cent of unionized workers voted to accept the tentative agreement reached by their negotiating committee. The new four-year collective agreement includes a salary increase of two per cent per year, as well as a lump sum granted annually, equivalent to one per cent, which amounts to a 12 per cent hike over the course of the contract.

The number one goal for workers was to improve their pension plan, as CUPE Local 5959 president Richard Ouimet points out. “Our plan had an actuarial deficit. We had to take measures to secure its future. We managed to convince our employer to contribute one million dollars to rectify the situation. We want to underline the fact that our members as well as the STL will both be increasing contributions to ensure a better retirement. We are very proud of our achievements on this front.” 

Township of Cramahe workers join CUPE

Municipal workers in the Township of Cramahe, Ontario, voted overwhelmingly to join CUPE to improve their working conditions. The 34 inside and outside workers of the Township will join one of the largest public service sectors represented by CUPE, with over 80,000 municipal workers in Ontario.

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