Sisters and Brothers,
This year CUPE celebrated its 40th anniversary, and we’re only getting stronger. With 530,000 members, we continue to be Canada’s largest and most dynamic union. Congratulations to everyone on another terrific year of growth.
CUPE members served the public in both our day-to-day duties and in a number of very high-profile natural disasters and public health challenges. These included the SARS outbreak in Toronto, Hurricane Juan in Nova Scotia, forest fires in British Columbia, the hydro blackout in Ontario and the BSE crisis, particularly in Western Canada.
In addition to providing emergency response services, many of our members and their families were directly affected by these events. CUPE members showed great courage and proved once again the importance of reliable and efficient public services, especially in times of crisis.
On the political front, CUPE members were active in no fewer than nine provincial and territorial elections. CUPE scored major victories in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, helping to re-elect governments that are very supportive of public services. In Ontario, we finally defeated the Harris-Eves Tories, and in Nova Scotia, we helped elect a minority government.
At the municipal level, a great team of trade unionists, including many CUPE activists, helped elect Mayor David Miller in Toronto. Miller was swept to power on a clear mandate of ending corporate ties to city hall and strengthening city services.
Throughout the year, we successfully bargained hundreds of agreements and settled several bitter strikes. CUPE also scored a major pay equity victory for women in Ontario. Over 100,000 women will benefit thanks to a CUPE-led legal challenge.
Still, CUPE members face many battles across the country, including a direct assault on labour rights by both the Charest government in Quebec and the Campbell government in BC. Our airline members face continued uncertainty with Air Canada. And the threat of privatization looms almost everywhere.
We remain a strong and vibrant union, but we must remain vigilant. Already, Prime Minister Paul Martin is implementing a conservative political agenda with more cuts to social programs. During next year’s federal election, we will remind him of the vital role that public services played in this year’s disasters.
To all of CUPE’s local activists, elected leadership and dedicated staff, thank you for your hard work and perseverance during these trying times. Also, thank you for standing up for peace when too many in the world stood for war. As the year draws to a close, we wish you peace and happiness throughout the festive season and good health and prosperity in 2004.