Mark Hancock | National President
Any CUPE local that has been through bargaining during the pandemic knows it has been a different and often difficult experience. There has been so much uncertainty in our world for over a year now, and while things are looking up in some areas, I’d bet that bargaining isn’t about to get any easier.
It’s hard to believe, but it has now been almost five years since the National Executive Board ratified a renewed bargaining policy for our locals across the country, in the aftermath of some devastating bargaining in the auto sector that saw hard-won rights negotiated away in the form of concessions.
CUPE’s bargaining policy is straight-forward: we will not accept concessions or two-tier proposals at the bargaining table. We bargain forward, not backward. That means we will not negotiate away hard-won achievements from past rounds of bargaining. It also means we will not sell out younger or future members through two-tier proposals that deprive them of rights and benefits that we have enjoyed ourselves.
Our locals make this clear to employers across the table, and both our locals and employers around the country know that if our members are being backed into a corner, we will bring the full weight of our national union to support them.
In nearly five years, we’ve seen clearly how successful the policy has been.
We have heard consistently that local bargaining committees are confident in standing up to employers who table concessions and two-tier language, because they know that CUPE National and our 700,000 members across the country have their back.
Time and again, our locals are bringing the same clear, simple but powerful message to employers: we won’t accept concessions and we won’t sacrifice the next generation of workers either. And employers back off – because they know we mean business.
In the months ahead, it’s going to be more important than ever for our locals to continue bringing that same message to the bargaining table as we return to bargaining in the wake of the pandemic.
Governments have been spending more in the last year – on health care, and on various efforts to prop up the economy. So we know to expect renewed calls for austerity, from Conservative and Liberal governments alike, in the coming months. Across Canada, governments and employers are readying the red ink and fiscal arguments, getting ready to slash that new spending at the cost of public services and public sector jobs.
But with our bargaining policy serving as our north star, CUPE locals will be ready to defend the jobs and services that got our communities through the pandemic – and they’ll have the power and might of their national union behind them every step of the way.