Sisters and Brothers:
What a spring 2011 decided to give us. Only halfway through the year and our members have experienced spectacular highs – like the federal NDP winning Official Opposition – to sobering lows with devastating floods in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec and destructive fires in Alberta.
We are fortunate in CUPE to at least have had financial stability and a General Fund that offers us some flexibility as the challenges to our members and our union continue to mount. The challenges thrown at us by nature are difficult to prevent, but we can work to force back the attacks that come from those who would like to see unions fade away and workers stripped of their rights.
At each Division convention this spring, as well as HEU, I explained that the NEB had decided to make this year’s budget an elections budget. We put as much of our new revenue as we could into the federal election and the many provincial elections that take place this year. And, after the federal election results, I am happy to say that we are getting our money’s worth!
Our elections budget meant that we were able to support eight CUPE staff coordinators and a total of 39 member coordinators across the country to engage locals in reaching out to members with information about issues and parties. These coordinators were able to explain to locals why it is so important to organize membership lists and make them available for CUPE to contact members in targeted ridings. Our campaign teams were able to directly contact close to 50,000 members by telephone or e-mail and generated well over 300 volunteers to work in targeted ridings.
Not only did we contribute to the NDP win, but we laid the groundwork for elections this fall in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and possibly British Columbia. We had the largest elections budget ever, but certainly could use more. With a $1.3 million operating surplus in the General Fund in the first quarter of 2011, this may be possible.
Part of that surplus is generated by underspending in the first quarter in the Anti-Privatization budget; however, we can be certain that this reflects the time spent by regions in developing campaigns. Without a doubt, the fight is on from coast to coast to coast. Our members are pushing back against government plans to use a P3 to build seniors’ housing in PEI, against contracting out garbage collection and much more in Toronto, against a party trying to unseat the NDP government in Manitoba by promising to privatize Manitoba Hydro, against contracting out surgeries in Saskatchewan – you name it, the privateers are trying to make it theirs.
I am pleased to report some improvements in the way regions are integrating local campaigns in their anti-privatization proposals. Yet, we are still receiving many requests from locals for cost-shared campaigns to fight privatization and contracting out. That is one of the reasons that in the first quarter of 2011, the NEB approved requests representing 55% of the annual budget for cost-shared campaigns under the National Defence Fund. That fund shows a net deficit of $377,000 in the first quarter.
We will continue to encourage regions and locals to coordinate their anti-privatization campaigns in order to maximize the benefit from the available funds.
On the operations side, activity is also at a high level. Construction work is beginning on the new Ontario Regional Office and architect selection has taken place for the construction of a new building next to the National Office.
Our Technology department continues its work on redesigning the Local Union Information System (LUIS). Other important work is underway to help improve our internal communications through the development of a CUPE Intranet or internal web site. The huge shift in the way we communicate is also being met head on by Union Development, with a reference group working on a new social media workshop and our literacy coordinator looking into e-learning.
These are all important developments that will serve the national union, divisions, locals and members well as we work to protect our collective agreements, our rights in the workplace and the public services that we deliver to our communities.