All talk, no action on EI
In the past week, there has been mounting concern across the country about the inability of our current EI system to see Canadians through the recession.
Opposition parties and thousands of Canadian workers want to know how a system that only covers 40% of Canada’s unemployed will provide the stability our country needs during tough economic times.
In an attempt to quiet growing calls for EI reform, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley outlined a series of EI changes on Monday. But the Conservatives’ plan isn’t new, nor does it address any of the key problems under the current EI system. The $500 million “introduced” for retraining was included in the January budget, and 60% of Canada’s unemployed remain ineligible for benefits.
CUPE is calling for a standard eligibility of 360 hours – no matter where a worker lives, benefits that are determined by a worker’s best 12 weeks on the job, and coverage that lasts at least 50 weeks. In the current economic climate, Canada cannot afford political games played on the backs of unemployed workers.
Toronto workers say no to concessions
Members of the Toronto Civic Employees Union, CUPE Local 416, voted 89% in favour of a strike mandate on May 20, while City of Toronto inside workers, members of
CUPE Local 79, voted 90% in favour on May 24.
“We will be going back to the table with a clear message from the membership,” said CUPE 416 President Mark Ferguson. “The City must take its 118 pages of concessions off the table.”
Both unions are committed to working towards a negotiated settlement and trying to avoid a strike. “At the end of the day, our members will get a fair collective agreement, with or without a strike,” said CUPE 79 President Anne Dembinski. “The City has to stop using the economy as an excuse to dismantle workers’ rights it took decades to establish.”
Saskatchewan’s health care “double standards” spur call for strike vote
The CUPE Saskatchewan Health Care Council is preparing to take a strike vote after another week of contract talks with the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO) failed to achieve any meaningful progress towards a contract settlement.
“We’ve been without a new agreement for more than 14 months, but SAHO still hasn’t presented a monetary offer at our table,” says Gordon Campbell, President of the CUPE Health Care Council. “In contrast, SAHO presented a significant wage offer to SUN members less than two months after their contract expired last year.” Campbell says SAHO’s “double standard” at the bargaining table has offended many of CUPE’s 12,600 health care providers who work in five health regions.
CUPE members also are dismayed over the government’s essential services legislation. Although the health regions’ essential services plans are inaccurate and incomplete, the health employers are refusing to revise their plans and the government is doing nothing about it.
Fighting for a better choice in Nova Scotia
The Better Choice Nova Scotia 2009 campaign is aimed at getting labour’s message out to unionized workers about the genuine change that Darrell Dexter and the NDP represent for working families in that province.
CUPE has several activists booked off and working on the campaign. Through phone calls, direct mail, and presentations to local unions, we hope to make history by electing the first-ever NDP government east of Ontario. Dexter and the NDP have been leading consistently in the polls since shortly after the last election in June, 2006.
CUPE workers picket Dalton McGuinty’s office to save youth mental health centre
Workers at the Robert Smart Centre picketed Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Ottawa constituency office in a bid to save the vital mental health centre from closure due to chronic provincial underfunding.
The Centre is one of only two agencies in the province that provides specialized mental health support to youth.
Funding the Centre is crucial, but the government also can’t solve the crisis with band-aids, said Simon Davidson, Chair of the Child and Youth Advisory Committee of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
“We can’t look at one-off solutions for a problem here and a shortfall there,” Davidson said. “We need a broad-based strategy to appropriately address children and youth mental health in the province of Ontario.”
CUPE wins CALM awards
CUPE communicators - staff and volunteers - have collected a bunch of awards at the annual Canadian Association of Labour Media conference. Among the long list of awards won by CUPE staff and members were awards for excellence in newsletter layout and design, best illustrations, best television ads, and best websites, as well as the Breaking Barriers award and the Muckraking award.
Ontario Division Convention held this week
CUPE Ontario kicked off its annual division convention Wednesday, May 27 at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto.
CUPE National President Paul Moist, CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan, and Canadian Auto Workers President Ken Lewenza spoke during opening ceremonies about the importance of maintaining union solidarity across the public and private sectors. Lewenza also addressed the shameful treatment of striking CUPE locals 82 and 543 by the City of Windsor. The following day, CUPE Ontario aired a documentary on the Windsor strike. The documentary will be available shortly on the CUPE Ontario website.