Hancock opened the session by acknowledging the efforts of B.C. regional staff, particularly regional director Robin Jones, assistant regional director Anne Coupland, and support staffers Barb Dafoe and Allison Hill, in organizing the union’s first bargaining conference in several years. He also described various ways that CUPE BC plays a supportive role in provincial bargaining.
“CUPE BC is the only provincial division of CUPE that pays strike benefits when locals do need to take action,” he said, citing several examples in the past four years where the B.C. division has supported locals.
Hancock acknowledged the efforts of CUPE 2254 members in trying to secure a fair contract for Grand Forks library workers.
“The bosses there thought our five members would be bullied into accepting concessions, but like other CUPE members before them they said no and are now walking the picket line and will do so until a fair collective agreement with improvements—not concessions—is achieved,” he said, to much applause.
Hancock predicted that municipal bargaining in communities such as Vancouver, Victoria and Prince George may have challenges, “but you know we are going to have councils that will at least listen to us and not slam the door in our faces when we try to get in the room.”
Hancock also acknowledged several guests in attendance, including HEU secretary business manager Judy Darcy and HEU staffer Bonnie Pearson, BCGEU president Darryl Walker, and Brian Schram of the West Vancouver Municipal Employees’ Association.
Preparing for the next round
Barry O’Neill, the evening’s keynote speaker, echoed U.S. labour leader Stewart Acuff’s call for CUPE members to reach out to all potential allies—even where they least expect it.
“When times are bad, where should we be concentrating? Not just CUPE, not just the labour movement—that won’t cut it. We will need small business, chambers of commerce, and municipal governments to make it work.”
CUPE activists heading into the next rounds of bargaining will have to be “more collective than we have ever been. If we want to rebuild this province, we’re going to have to build it community, by community, by community. It’s going to be a very difficult struggle, but we’re well on the way to getting there, to making people understand that it doesn’t have to be this way.”
Contact: Dan Gawthrop, 604.291.1940