In his address to delegates on the first day of national convention, President Paul Moist called on CUPE members to work together in addressing women’s issues in the union.
“Our National Women’s Task Force, which I have worked closely with, has worked incredibly hard. Our union needs this debate, we will be a stronger union when we recognize that barriers do exist for CUPE women and it is our collective responsibility to bring those barriers down,” said Moist to applause from the convention floor.
At a noon-hour women’s caucus, the first of four scheduled, women members gathered to discuss their issues and hear a presentation from the task force. Of the 300 women attending the caucus about 50 were attending a national convention for the first time.
Morna Ballantyne, Managing Director of Union Development, walked the first-time delegates through an orientation about how the resolution process works. Several resolutions coming to the convention floor speak to the 54 recommendations in the women’s task force report. Three structural resolutions, which require constitutional change, cover minimal gender representation on CUPE’s national executive.
Norma Stevenson, President of UNISON of the United Kingdom, spoke about the work her union is doing to ensure that women are represented. Of UNISON’s 1.3 million members, one million are women. Her union adopted proportionality as a guiding principle from its outset and two out of three positions must be held by women.
Referring to the convention head table where the CUPE National Executive Board sits, Stevenson said: “I only had to look at the platform today and say ‘where are the women’? I hope to come back and see that changed.” Of the 23 members on CUPE’s NEB, only three positions are presently held by women.
Helen Kennedy, co-chair of the national women’s committee, said women members should focus and ‘keep an eye on the prize’.
“What we’re fighting for is building our union. We’re fighting for a strong union that will fight for women’s issues,” said Kennedy.
The NWTF will make its presentation to delegates Tuesday afternoon.