Delegates talked about how to strengthen CUPE’s bargaining power and how to achieve equality.
The debate occurred in the second phase of discussions on the union’s Strategic Directions Document.
“I want to thank the National Executive Board and the Strategic Directions document for giving us the concepts and allowing delegates to fill in the actions,” said Janice Folk-Dawson, Chair of Ontario’s University Workers Coordinating Committee. “In the university sector, let’s target coordinated bargaining across the country by 2010 and bring the federal government to the table to make sure we have accessible and affordable post-secondary education for everyone.”
Setting targets for a minimum wage of $15 per hour and a pension plan for all CUPE members by 2013 resonated with many delegates.
“A woman who makes 71% of the wages that men make, and an Aboriginal worker who collects 56% of the pension that others get, must still pay 100 per cent of the mortgage and medical bills,” said Laurie Larsen of CUPE 402, BC City of Surrey workers.
Marie Lavigne, a Red Cross worker with CUPE 4598, said that they are paid $8.50 with no benefits. “When women retire after 25 years, it’s as if they had never worked at all. That’s not fair.”
Achieving equality, a key plank of the strategic plan, was also addressed by delegates. “Privatization and contracting out is a destroyer of our members lives and most of the victims are visible minorities and immigrants,” said Boni Barcia, third vice-president of the BC Hospital Employees Union.
Edgar Godoy of CUPE 2191 went further. “Visible minorities do most of the casual work with no benefits. This discrimination is the worst form of racism and a form of apartheid.” He added that the Association of Community Living sector has achieved success and won more funding from the Ontario government by pursing coordinated bargaining.
Delegates noted that coordinated bargaining can work within CUPE and as part of broader labour initiatives. Carol McKnight, a Saskatchewan health care worker with CUPE 4777, cited how its 12,000 plus members worked with other unions to hammer out the Saskatchewan Collective Health Care Agreement. “ We went in with one voice and would not accept anything less. We got the best collective agreement in a long time.”
That sentiment was echoed by Ontario Council of Hospital Union’s president Michael Hurley, who spoke to the issue of home care workers. “The way forward is for a number of unions to get together, leap over their employers, confront provincial governments and go on strike unless we get $15 hour full pension and benefits.”
Strategic Direction 3 will focus on the environment and global solidarity. Delegates will have an opportunity to discuss a final revised plan on Friday.