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National President’s Report June 2007 - September 2007

Oct 1, 2007 01:33 PM
 

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

While I hope many of you were able to enjoy some well-earned vacation over the summer months, for many of our members it has been a summer on the picket lines.

In Vancouver, members of Local 1004 (Vancouver Outside Workers) have been on strike since July 20th. They were joined by Local 15 (Vancouver Inside Workers) on July 23rd and followed by Local 391 (Vancouver Public Library) July 26th. Members of Local 389 (North Vancouver District and Recreation Commission Workers) were out for 18 days prior to getting a settlement and returning to work on August 7th. All told, some 6,000 members have been on the picket lines in Vancouver and they have stood strong in the face of a very right-wing mayor and council (more on this dispute later in this report).

In Quebec, members of locals 1450, 1872 and 2808, have been locked out by their employer, Quebecor, since April 22nd. Our members refuse to bargain the significant concessions being demanded by the employer and they continue to publish their own daily paper that has received tremendous public support.

Local 2424, representing 700 support staff at Carleton University in Ottawa, was forced onto the street on September 5th, in a battle for a fair wage settlement and union recognition.

Small in number, but big on commitment, CUPE Local 1536 at Hearst Power in Northern Ontario, hit the picket lines on September 6th. They are the lowest paid power workers in Ontario and are determined to improve pay, benefits and working conditions.

Elsewhere we have continued to secure agreements right across Canada through membership mobilization and strong efforts by both our staff and negotiating committees.

While all of this is going on we have continued with efforts towards our 23rd National Convention to be held in Toronto between October 15th and 19th. This promises to be the biggest, and we hope, the best CUPE Convention ever. We hope your local is planning to attend the convention where we will set policy and direction for the next two years.

This report attempts to capture key highlights within our union over the past few months. As is always the case, it can’t capture everything, but you will note that this tremendous level of activity speaks positively about the level of commitment of our members and staff, for which I thank each and every one of you.

1.  Strikes/Lockouts

 

 Province Local
Employer
# of members
Strike began

Duration

 Quebec  1450  Journal de Québec  75  Apr 22/07  
 Quebec  1872  Journal de Québec  112  Apr 22/07  
 Quebec  2808  Journal de Québec  74  Apr 22/07  
 BC  389  City of Vancouver  675  July 20/07  18 days
 BC  1004  City of Vancouver  1,810  July 20/07  
 BC  15  City of Vancouver  2,700  July 23/07  
 BC  391  Vancouver Public Library 770   July 26/07  
 Ontario  2424   Carleton University 700   Sept 5/07  
 Ontario  1536  Hearst Power Distribution  3  Sept 6/07  
           

2.) The National Women's Task Force

The National Women’s Task Force held a two-day meeting on September 6-7, in Ottawa.

The members reported in on the work they had done over the last few months, reviewed and offered final comments on the NWTF Report to National Convention, discussed their video and verbal presentations to convention.

A substantial part of the meeting was dedicated to strategizing and developing support for the recommendations held within the Multi-Year Action Plan, which will come forth through convention resolutions, as well as the structural recommendations which would increase and strengthen the participation of women in our Union.

This was the last meeting of the NWTF. Throughout the last two years, the members have shared many experiences and have grown close. As members evaluated the work of the task force, many heartfelt comments were expressed.

On a personal note, I want to offer my profound thanks and appreciation to all of the members and staff who served on the National Women’s Task Force for their hard work and dedication to the key strategic issue of increasing women’s participation at all levels of our Union.

3.  Federal Scene

On August 22nd, Prime Minister Harper met with US President Bush and Mexican President Calderón to continue advancing their harmonization agenda, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). Unions and community groups joined with the Council of Canadians in peaceful protest of the lack of transparency and public discussion on significant changes to our country’s sovereignty.

Most of you will have seen the now infamous “You Tube” video, exposing the police agitators at Montebello. If you haven’t, you should definitely take an opportunity to view it. You can access it from www.cupe.ca at our August 24th news release “SQ Provocateurs: Time for a Public Inquiry”. CUPE has called for a public inquiry into the incident to find out who issued the orders for police to engage in this behaviour.

Earlier that week, CUPE joined representatives of major energy sector unions from Canada, Mexico and the US in Montreal to denounce the SPP. With deregulation, privatization and by giving the US a veto over continental energy resources, the SPP would hike rates and lower wages, as well as finish off the Kyoto protocol. As in many other sectors, by losing effective means of public control, nations would be deprived of their sovereignty.

The federal government has postponed the fall sitting until mid-October. While we have been doing some work on pre-budget consultations, our positions will no doubt need alteration as a new Throne Speech is expected.

4.  Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)

In recent years we have stepped up our work in terms of the FCM. This umbrella group represents over one thousand cities and towns, a sector where we have about 150,000 municipal members. Our work has included attendance at the annual FCM convention, as well as sharing our P3 research work.

This latter effort has started to pay dividends. In late August the FCM released a paper they commissioned by Professor Pierre Hamel of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) of the University of Quebec.

Professor Hamel’s conclusions regarding P3s include:

  1. There is no evidence to suggest that P3s consistently cost less or provide better services than traditional public projects.
  2. P3s do not offer municipalities a magic solution to the problem of securing additional funds for infrastructure. Only significant, sustained public investment will meet our infrastructure needs.
  3. P3s give the responsibility for financing projects to the private sector, even though traditional municipal financing is simple, relatively easy, and less costly than private-sector financing.
  4. P3s are normally used for the construction of new projects, which tend to be more attractive to potential private-sector investors. As a result, they do little to solve the more pressing problem of funding repairs and maintenance of existing infrastructure.

Other findings include:

  • If municipalities grow too reliant on P3s, they may lose their capacity to manage public initiatives themselves, thereby limiting the range of project approaches available to local government in the future.
  • Long-term P3 agreements, which often keep proprietary information out of the public domain and put the day-to-day management of public services in private hands for periods of 20 to 30 years, can reduce flexibility, transparency, and accountability for local governments.

We will be sharing the full research report widely with municipal locals and encouraging them to share this with their respective city councils. I offer my sincere thanks to our national research staff for their ongoing efforts to influence P3 research within the FCM.

5.  Council of the Federation – Premiers’ Conference

The Council of the Federation brings the premiers together annually in the summer to exchange view on issues such as climate change, energy efficiency and trade. This year, they met in Moncton, New Brunswick, on August 9-10.

The New Brunswick Federation of Labour organized a 24-hour rally, calling it a 24-hour candlelight vigil at the site of the Council of the Federation meeting. The rally goal was to raise the top issues of concern facing working families in the Maritimes and Atlantic regions – namely protesting against the selling off of our raw materials that secret trade deals such as Atlantica achieve; the loss of manufacturing jobs and the decimation of complete communities; the importance of health care.

Even though hard rain poured throughout most of the 24 hours, the rally was a huge success and was attended by numerous leaders, and all participants were not to be dissuaded. Flags and banners in hand, CUPE members, as well as members from other unions, took shifts in the round-the-clock event. Under a huge tent, teach-ins and workshops were held.

While in Moncton, I also took the opportunity to drop in to meet the 25 young people enrolled in the New Brunswick Federation of Labour youth summer camp (of which I am proud to say 12 of which came from CUPE families!). Brother Légère and I urged them to join the 24-hour labour rally and to make colourful protest posters. Their presence enhanced and changed the whole dynamic of the rally!

As well, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions held an all-day conference on health care just prior to the Premiers’ meeting which CUPE leaders and staff attended.

6.  NEHAWU Congress

I was privileged to attend the triennial NEHAWU Congress where some 500 delegates of our sister union in South Africa met in convention.

NEHAWU represents just over 200,000 education and health care workers. The union was formed in 1987 and CUPE has enjoyed close fraternal relations with NEHAWU since 1988.

Highlights of the convention included:

  • NEHAWU, along with 10 other public sector unions were just concluding a 27-day period of rotating strike action as the convention began. About 1 million workers were involved in job actions.
    The level of inter-union coordination and cooperation was truly amazing and the unions achieved significant movement from government on wages.
  • NEHAWU, through the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is closely aligned with the African National Congress (ANC) who has held power since apartheid ended 13 years ago. The ANC maintains power through coalition with COSATU and the South African Communist Party (SACP). It is a tension filled, but nonetheless strong coalition.
    Deputy ANC leader, Jacob Zuma, addressed the NEHAWU Congress. He is a leading contender to replace President Thabo Mbeki as ANC leader (the South African constitution places a two-term limit on presidents). Zuma enjoys widespread union support and his appearance at the Congress was loud and enthusiastic.
  • Debate at the Congress is passionate, but very different from that at Canadian union conventions. The leadership presents resolutions which have been debated in workshops and one speaker from each of the nine regions speaks (if they choose to). The leadership listens to the debate and announces the consensus view for adoption.
    Key issues for debate included, privatization, international issues, pay equity and political action.
  • There were international guests from about a dozen countries present. I was asked to bring greetings on behalf of CUPE. In introducing me, NEHAWU’s President thanked CUPE for our support over the years including letters we sent in support of their May/June strike action.
    South Africa has made tremendous progress over the past 13 years but they continue to face many challenges. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is both huge and ever-present. Unlike my last trip to South Africa in 2003, I found more open discussion on HIV/AIDS with NEHAWU holding a moving candle light ceremony during their convention.
    I presented them with a CUPE flag and one of our framed National Women’s Task Force posters. Our message that “women make our union stronger” was warmly received.
    South Africa’s trade union movement is strong and militant. They value international labour union relations and our relationship with NEHAWU is an important one for our union.
    I published daily blog updates from South Africa (available on our national website).

7. Organizing

Although the summer has traditionally been a quieter time for organizing, each region has been active in pursuing ongoing drives and planning for future activities.

The Department of Organizing and Regional Services has begun revising the training module for member-organizers to be completed in early 2008.

The Atlantic Region has temporary organizers starting in September to assess the potential and work on viable initiatives. CUPE activists met in Halifax prior to the National Child Care Conference. As well, CUPE had a booth and display information materials. Parallel to this, child care organizers from Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia met for a day to strategize and share information. We are now waiting for the results of the vote at the Children’s Aid Society, Cape Breton.

We are currently seeking to certify 100 employees at the Cape Breton Housing Authority. A hearing date has been set for November 13. We are also awaiting word from the NS Labour Board on the supervisors at St. Joseph Children’s Centre, and have applied to the NL Labour Board for certification of 38 social services workers at the John Howard Society.

The proposed health care representation votes have now been confirmed and continue to proceed.

Organizing committees continue to meet and set goals in the Maritimes Region . New Brunswick has a number of targeted organizing campaigns on the go, some of which were dismissed by the Labour and Employment Board. We have been successful in our application for certification at the Dr. V.A. Snow Nursing Home (approx. 60 employees); the Westford Nursing Home (approx. 30 employees); and in the 11 non-bargaining nursing homes in the province, allowing us to add a further 130 new members.

Other various organizing projects are underway.

In the Quebec Region, we achieved a significant victory at the AMF (Autorité des marchés financiers), which means that we will now represent some 200 additional employees. We have also undertaken a campaign to further unionize supervisory structures at the Casino de Montréal.

During July, we were also successful in stopping a raiding attempt at the Six Flags Company at the La Ronde amusement park. As well, we inflicted a crushing defeat on FISA (Fédération indépendante des syndicats autonomes) which was trying to win back the outside workers in Lévis.

In the Ontario Region, we have been busy in the CCAC sector pursuing numerous campaigns.

As well, child care organizing as been at the forefront where many meetings took place. An application for certification has been initiated for Harrow Day Care and the successful vote was held August 23rd (12 members). Preliminary arrangements have made to host a Professional Development Day in October as part of the Child Care Appreciation Day. In the Ottawa and Kawartha Lakes, posters and brochures advertising our information meeting have been mailed out. Other initiatives have been pursued in the Toronto area.

The potential for organizing in the Manitoba Region this fall looks promising. The primary focus will be on social services. There are also plans being made to continue work in on the common issues faced by teaching assistants. Some growth in the municipal sector also looks promising, as well as some possibility in the Airline sector.

The Saskatchewan Region continues to have discussions with various groups and continues to organize on a call-by-call basis.

The Alberta Region has a number of organizing projects underway and also faces the possible raiding and lost of members in other areas, which requires a constant vigilance on the part of CUPE members and staff.

In the BC Region, a successful certification vote was held in July at the Canadian Mental Health Association. Other certifications pending include the Leisure Recreating Group (Chilliwack) with an estimated 70 employees. Other ongoing projects in child care, First Nations, and other identified workplaces are underway.

8. Regional Updates

Airline

After twelve consecutive days of bargaining and one year to the date that they opened bargaining, our CUPE Local 4044 reached a tentative agreement with Canjet in Halifax. This first collective agreement contains wage increases, improvements to working conditions and union recognition.

Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU)

In early September, HEU and other health care unions met with representatives of the provincial government to begin to deal with the repercussions of last June’s landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision that declared parts of Bill 29 unconstitutional. This was the law that ripped up collective agreement protections and resulted in job losses for thousands of workers, mostly women. The Supreme Court gave the BC government one year to address the outcomes of the decision. The unions and government have agreed to engage in negotiations on the issues.

British Columbia

Civic workers across the province were on the front lines of flood watch, preparation and control in late spring and summer. Our members in communities from Smithers to Delta to the Fraser Valley were deployed 24-7 in some cases and their dedication and skill were critical to protecting thousands of citizen’s safety and property. Once again, the public sector delivers!

As noted in the introduction to this report, it’s been a long, frustrating summer on the picket lines. Municipal bargaining in the Lower Mainland was expected to be tough, but in all but the City of Vancouver, at least the employer showed up at the bargaining tables! Local 15 (City of Vancouver Inside Workers), Local 391 (Vancouver Public Library) and Local 1004 (City of Vancouver Outside Workers) remain frustrated with the City’s refusal to come to the table. Instead, the City seems to believe they will break the unions and win the day through the media. They need to realize the power of CUPE!

Twelve other CUPE locals in the Lower Mainland settled over the summer, with only one having to take strike action. Local 389 settled after 18 days on the line.

Next up and ready to stand up for pay equity is Local 410 – Greater Victoria Public Library. They are demanding that the employer deliver on a 10-year old promise to pay the same wages as other municipal employees doing comparable work. Check out their “Overdue” initiative at www.overduepromise.ca

Alberta

Calgary paramedics (CUPE Local 3421) gave their bargaining team an overwhelming 99% strike mandate and served notice of strike to commence July 26th. Their key issue was wages, as they are well behind comparable work in the City of Calgary. On the eve of the strike, the provincial government ordered a Public Emergency Tribunal, which ended the ability to strike and sends the dispute to binding arbitration.

Long term care workers in five Extendicare facilities ratified an agreement that attempts to address serious recruitment challenges. However, in the booming Alberta economy and with the provincial government’s reluctance to overhaul long term care, CUPE members in this sector will need to continue their fight to improve working conditions.

The battle against P3’s continues in Alberta, with the latest struggle being in the Town of Taber. CUPE Local 2038 is leading a public awareness campaign that includes lawn signs, town hall meetings, ads and lobbying municipal politicians, who will be facing the voters come October 15th.

Saskatchewan

Hard lobbying work by CUPE activists and coalition partners has put the brakes on TILMA coming to Saskatchewan any time soon. The Saskatchewan NDP government announced in July that the Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement is just another name for protection of corporate rights and is not in the best interests of communities.

Manitoba

Hard bargaining continues to yield results. Members at Nor’West Early Learning and Child Care Centre in Winnipeg reached a four-year agreement that increases wages and benefits.

Just as Mayor Sam in Vancouver attacks our members there, Mayor Sam in Winnipeg has a similar agenda. Sam Katz plans on implementing changes to the tax system to shift the burden from business tax to homeowners. He plans to pay for this decrease in revenue by downsizing the public sector. CUPE Local 500 is engaged in a public awareness and membership mobilization that will set the stage for a tough round of bargaining in early 2008.

Ontario

Working with key leaders and staff, CUPE Ontario has been actively involved in exerting pressure on the Ontario government and Ministry of Education to fix a deeply flawed funding formula that fails to recognize the importance and contributions of educational support workers. As a result, the Ministry of Education created a Support Workers Advisory Group in which CUPE will be an active participant. In addition, over $300 million in added funding has been announced.

With the provincial election set for October 10th, the Ontario Division in conjunction with staff have developed a comprehensive strategy to ensure maximum support for the NDP. We are honoured to have ten (10) CUPE members running for the NDP in this election. Special kudos to these members.

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) will be in the process of kicking off its “Preventable Deaths Campaign” focussing on the need to prevent core services such as housekeeping from being contracted out to the private sector.

Quebec

A major reflection about the negotiation plan in the whole public sector is taking place, and is conducted with other unions of the FTQ.

The Agglomeration council of Montréal produced a transportation plan that relies on the ways of transportation (tramways, light rail transport), which favours privatization of an important part of the urban transportation development in the greater Montréal area.

In collaboration with FTQ, CUPE and its locals, are in the process of preparing a brief to promote an urban and outskirts transportation development that will take into consideration the social, economic and environmental needs and necessarily exclude any form of privatization of the public transport.

Local 301 and 429 (Montréal) are already committed in multiple negotiations with the cities that demerged and the paramunicipal corporations. It is the first round of negotiations since the saga of the merger-demerger of the Montréal Island and since the sadly notorious sentence of the arbitrator Lavoie that alienate the collective agreement of the blue collars of Montréal.

New Brunswick

Hearings have commenced on the casual employees court challenge launched by CUPE New Brunswick and its public sector coalition partners. The coalition is advancing its argument on the right to associate and the right to free collective bargaining for casual employees. The presiding judge has requested that the parties enter arguments on the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the British Columbia health care case, the Court’s most recent decision in support of free collective bargaining. You will recall that our health care union in BC (HEU) was the prime catalyst in bringing this issue to the Court’s attention.

On September 17th, CUPE will be in a New Brunswick court to argue that Sackville’s town council decision to privatize its water treatment facilities violates the province’s municipality law. CUPE’s position is that the whirlwind decision to privatize the town’s water system was taken in secret and without public consultation.

Nova Scotia

With a stated intention by the MacDonald government to take away the right to strike from some 32,000 health and community care workers and replace it with arbitration, CUPE and six (6) other unions in Nova Scotia have formed a coalition to ensure that the essential component of free collective bargaining, the right to strike, is maintained. The coalition commenced an extensive public campaign on the Labour Day weekend.

CUPE Nova Scotia played a significant role in the Canadian Child Care Federation’s annual conference held in June. Our National Child Care Working Group, as well as local activists attended. CUPE maintained a booth packed with organizing and other materials of interest throughout the weekend.

A special needs review panel conducted by the Ministry of Education has agreed to CUPE’s recommendation to phase out the so-called “Tuition Support Agreements”. We argued that these agreements amounted to the introduction of “school vouchers”. In their report, the panel stated that education departments should stick to the principle of providing all service to all students within the public education system.

Prince Edward Island

CUPE PEI continues to lobby the government to maintain rural schools which are an integral part of communities on the island. In addition, Island school board executive officers and the Division have been actively formulating plans to involve a broad coalition of community activists to fight any rural school closures.

Newfoundland and Labrador

CUPE Newfoundland teamed up with Oxfam for an interactive, high energy, outreach event on St. John’s waterfront to mark the mid-point of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The event, which was well reported, was designed to remind the public of the eight-time bound goals that would eliminate extreme poverty and hunger by the year 2015.

CUPE is participating in a joint effort between government, business and labour to review the province’s collective bargaining legislation.

9. Retirements

I would like to thank the following staff members for their unending commitment to our union as they announce their retirement plans. Best wishes to each of you and again, a big thank you.

Sister Lorraine Sigurdson, Manitoba Regional Office (July 1, 2007)
Brother Peter Barnacle, Saskatchewan Regional Office (August 1, 2007)
Sister Aurore Proulx, Rimouski Area Office (October 1, 2007)
Brother Al Ens, Fraser Valley Area Office (January 1, 2008)
Sister Sherry Neis, Calgary Area Office (January 1, 2008)
Sister Jeanne Cazabon, Quebec Regional Office (February 1, 2008)
Sister Suzanne Léger, Ontario Regional Office (March 1, 2008)

10. In Memoriam

On behalf of each of you, we have extended our condolences to the families of two CUPE members who have died on the job this summer.

Richard Gallant, a long time highway worker and member of CUPE Local 1190, was killed near Moncton, New Brunswick, when a tractor-trailer crashed through their worksite.

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, 36-year old CUPE Local 500 member Douglas Prysiazniuk died from injuries sustained on August 24th when he was caught between the bucket of the boom truck he was in and a bridge girder.

Both locals have provided support to the families and will be involved in investigations to determine the causes of these needless and unfortunate deaths.

It is always sad to have to report when members of our CUPE family have passed away. I know you join me in expressing our condolences to the family of Sister Sandra MacLean (Retiree) who passed away on July 6, 2007.

11. Personal

As many of you will have heard, a long-serving member of our NEB, CUPE PEI President, Sister Donalda MacDonald is currently battling cancer and on behalf of our entire union, I want to pledge our solidarity and our prayers with Sister Donalda as she embarks upon her treatments. Donalda is an inspiration to many of us and she is a fighter. If you wish to drop her a card or an email you can do so as follows:

Donalda MacDonald
2820 Annandale Road, Route 310
P.O. Box 1481
MONTAGUE, PE C0A 1R0

Email: dmacdonald@cupe.ca

Our union work is important, but sometimes it takes a challenge such as the one Donalda is now facing for each of us to step back and to recognize the real important things in life. With our support I know our Sister will feel stronger and I thank you in advance for contacting her.

On Labour Day I was pleased to be in Kenora for their annual Labour Day picnic. I met many CUPE retirees and members, including the Kenora and District Labour Council President, Sister Donna Wiebe. I have never presided over a minnow race for kids, it was a truly enjoyable experience.

Our message on Labour Day was that CUPE stands up for strong communities everywhere in Canada. In large cities and in small towns. Our services contribute greatly to the kind of caring communities we want for all citizens. To you, our leadership and to all our staff, thank you for your activism, it truly puts the community first in every corner of Canada.

I hope to see many of you in Toronto in October.

In solidarity,

PAUL MOIST

National President

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