In an article published in Le Devoir in anticipation of International Workers’ Day, the National Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE, Charles Fleury, describes our union’s opposition to the damaging policies of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. He also explains the solutions proposed by CUPE to improve the living conditions of all Canadians. To learn more about the campaigns in support of strengthening the public health care system, enhancing the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance, and establishing a national daycare network, read Charles Fleury’s article.The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 627,000 workers across the country, is waging a campaign denouncing the policies of the Conservative government, “policies that affect all of us, all Canadians, and not just workers,” according to Charles Fleury, National Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE.
English translation of the original article:
The policies of the Harper government are damaging to us all - “Eleven million workers have no private pension plan”
“A union like ours works not only on behalf of its members, but also to maintain and even improve the lives of everyone,” said Fleury, citing the Federal Government’s recent decision to reduce its contributions to Canada’s universal health care system. “The Harper government decided unilaterally to renew the health accord, without any negotiation with the provinces,” he noted. “The result: $36 billion less for the provinces over the next ten years. In Quebec, that will be $800 million less for the health budget annually. This means that federal participation in universal health care in Canada is a mere 18%, whereas it was originally 50%.”
“We see this as a move towards privatization,” Fleury observed. “We are heading towards a two-tier system: a public system and a private system where the wealthy can afford better services. But we’re fighting it. We’re knocking on the doors of citizens to explain the impact of the cuts in transfers to the provinces, and we’re getting a good response.”
“Unite for Fairness”
Contrary to what its name suggests, the Canadian Union of Public Employees does not represent federal employees, but rather workers in the health, education, municipalities, public and social services, transport, emergency services, air transportation and communications sectors.
“Our public employees work in the municipal and health sectors, education, etc.” says Fleury. “We are also very involved in provincial and municipal government structures, as well as the energy sector. We do not, however, represent Federal Government workers, apart from a few groups such as stevedores and flight attendants. “
For that reason, CUPE is very sensitive to federal policies and is running five campaigns in conjunction with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) to denounce those policies.
For example, the major Canadian unions are campaigning to improve the federal and Quebec public pension plans. “When you consider that eleven million workers have no private pension plan, it is obvious that the solution is not cutting public pensions, but ensuring that everyone has one,” says Fleury. “There is also the impact of EI where, once again, the Federal Government decided on a reform that benefits no one.”
Canadian unions are even running a national campaign for the establishment of a daycare network similar to the one in Quebec. “This type of service has an impact on the economy, as it brings people into the labour market, including many women, which enriches everyone,” says Fleury. “And when you look at the studies that have been done in Quebec on the economic impact of this program, it is clear that this service benefits society.”
Accordingly, under the aegis of the Canadian Labour Congress, CUPE and labour federations in different provinces are waging a campaign called “Unite for Fairness.”
An appointment not to miss in October 2015
“We are heading for a major event,” notes the Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE, “the federal election in October 2015. [In the meantime], we are informing people about the federal government’s attacks and anti-labour laws, which impoverish all of us —not just union members but the entire population. Our campaign has a clear goal: we all have an appointment in 2015 that is too important to miss! “
To that end, the major Canadian unions unhesitatingly support the NDP. “We believe that Thomas Mulcair and his young team represent the requisite social values of wealth sharing,” says Fleury. “And sometimes people have short memories,” he continues. “They may have forgotten that the Liberal Party has often been little better than the Conservatives. For one thing, they are the ones who plundered $50 billion from the EI fund.”
Although there are differences between Quebec and the rest of Canada —as there are between each of the provinces, Charles Fleury believes that above all, there exist common values among Canadians from coast to coast.
“We all believe in wealth sharing and access to all the services that we should expect in an industrialized country like ours: access to education, health care, etc. Whatever one’s financial or social status, we all need education and health care, a good pension, and the ability to live with dignity. And whether we’re English or French, in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada, we all share these values.”
Original article (french)