Sisters and Brothers:
September always brings with it the urge to say, “welcome back.” For many in CUPE, however, this summer was not much of a breather as governments and other employers continued to try to punish workers for the economic fallout from excessive corporate greed. Nevertheless, I hope you have had an opportunity to enjoy some time off with family and friends and re-energize for a busy fall and winter ahead.
At the federal level, we face the prospect of the passage of Bill C-377, which would impose onerous reporting requirements on our union at every level. Members are participating in a national lobby of MPs coordinated by the Canadian Labour Congress. We have nothing to hide when it comes to the use of members’ dues; however, we believe our accountability is to the membership and not to forces that would like to distort our activities and use them against us. Bill C-377 singles out unions in a blatant attempt to curtail our activities in the workplace and in the political arena on behalf of working people.
Members will also be busy in Ottawa this fall with National Committee meetings and, in October, the National Health and Safety Conference.
That work will be supported by our staff, including some new faces at CUPE National. The position created in the 2012 budget for a bilingual Senior Office in the Union Development Department has been filled. For our francophone members outside of Quebec, this will mean a new emphasis on adapting existing programs and developing new ones to be offered in French.
I am also pleased to welcome our new Head Accountant, Rhonda Henry. This is a timely addition to our staff as we begin to prepare the 2013 budget, review our roadmap for recording our employee future benefit obligations, work on our three-year strategic plan for information technology and assess our ability to increase and manage our real estate assets.
We are turning our minds to next year’s budget. Our finance team and our Senior Economist will soon begin the number-crunching that produces our revenue projections. At this time, we expect to see a continuation of the trend from the last two years with revenue continuing to grow but at a much slower pace than we experienced in the previous decade. This is the natural fallout from a tough bargaining climate and will affect our ability to add new staff or programs. It is essential that we all sit down and think about how we plan to use this new revenue in our 2013 budget.
For a few years now, we’ve gotten into the habit of using most, if not all, of this new money to create new positions. Perhaps it’s time to take a different approach. The repeated and sustained attacks that we have felt from various levels of government over the past few years are becoming increasingly vicious. Even so, I believe that we haven’t seen anything yet. We will have to fight back ferociously against these attacks, designed to limit free collective bargaining through special legislation, legislation that freezes our salaries and our working conditions. We will also have to fight vigorously against bills such as C-377 that ultimately seeks to undermine the clout of trade unions using greater transparency as a rationale. This bill is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve even heard rumours that the Rand Formula will soon become a target. All these attacks will make the headlines over the coming year and are likely to get worse.
Of course, you’re very aware of all this because you are reacting. As evidence, we could point to cost-shared campaigns. After nine months of this fiscal year, we have exceeded our budget by more than $500,000. The budget allocations for anti-privatization actions and national strategic initiatives are not sitting idle. We can observe enormous pressures being put on them.
Accordingly, perhaps we might consider allocating additional revenue in 2013 to prioritizing fightback campaigns and making sure that our current obligations, such as future benefits for our employees and the solvency of the pension plan, are on a solid foundation before we decide to create new positions?
Although we have begun to act vis-à-vis the FSCO to exempt ourselves from certain solvency regulations, we are still only taking our first baby steps in this area and we cannot totally rely upon this one solution to ensure that the pension plan meets all of its obligations.
Thus, with all these challenges in mind that when we consult with staff and leadership in the regions and at the National Office, we will try to examine whether we are making the best use of our existing resources. Consultations with regional staff and leadership have been scheduled for early November. Between now and when we do get together, I would like you all to think about the best way for us to draw up our 2013 budget knowing what awaits us, so that we may engage in a productive discussion when we begin the consultation process.
For the current year, and despite the attacks we’ve experienced, we ended the first half of 2012 with the General Fund in good shape. We have taken a cautious approach in the first half of the year, conscious of the special payments required to maintain solvency in the CUPE Employees Pension Plan. Our attention must now also turn to the roadmap previously approved by the National Executive Board for recording our employee future benefit obligations. Even as we stick with our plan, the costs have continued to rise and the gap between those obligations and what is recorded in our books is growing again.
When it comes to the National Defence Fund, and as I mentioned above, 89% of the annual budget for cost-shared campaigns was allocated by the end of the second quarter. At this September NEB meeting, we are presenting more than $700,000 in cost-shared campaign requests, creating a budget deficit in the third quarter for the first time. This situation concerns us. Clearly, the need for campaigns exists, but we have fallen short when it comes to evaluating their effectiveness and the results for members. While we assume that local campaigns are succeeding, we will be putting more emphasis on follow-up evaluations.
The National Strike Fund is healthy and has been put to good use defending the members. We have had several lengthy and difficult strikes and should expect to see more in this economic climate.