Thank you sisters and brothers. It is a great pleasure for me to stand in front of you today, here in Toronto, at our 23rd biennial convention.
- See also: Supporting presentation
We have a lot to celebrate this week.
First, we will celebrate the work we have done together over the past two years.
Fighting privatization, making gains at the bargaining table, and working for equality both inside and outside our union.
Then, as we proceed through our agenda of the next four days, discussing our strategic directions, considering constitutional changes, and learning from one another, we will be celebrating the future.
That’s right – celebrating the future - because our future is very bright.
Our future is based on the hard work we have put in – collectively – to build CUPE. And while we will continue to face enormous challenges in our workplaces and our communities, we have not just the resources, but the commitment and collective spirit to take them on and to win.
So in my report to you this year, I want to talk about where we have come from. And I want to talk to you about where Paul and I believe we should be going.
As your National Secretary-Treasurer it is my constitutional duty to report to you on our finances. I know some of you are keenly interested in my report and will hang on every word.
Others, well lets face it; others are bored with financial reports. And that is normal. It is, after all, pretty dry material.
Operating funds, revenue, surpluses, deficits – these are not words to inspire the soul. In fact, the words in and of themselves can put us to sleep.
They are not the inspirational words we like. Like “fighting back”, “defending our rights”, “building a better world”. But I know that you all know how important our finances are. You all know it is the foundation for our actions and a measure of our strength.
So in my financial report to you this convention, I want to put it all together in a way that brings this all together.
Follow the money – it tells the story.
Really, the money, where it comes from, how we spend it and what it accomplishes tell the story of CUPE.
To begin I will be a little repetitive. But I will leave out some details that you can find in my written report to you in the booklet entitled: “The Last Two Years”.
Our finances are good. I have been saying that for a couple of years now.
This is the second convention in a row where money is not an issue. There is no per capita increase in front of you, no crisis to solve together.
No sisters and brothers it is “steady as she goes” – to coin an old sailor’s term.
And I think that metaphor is appropriate. We are on a journey. We meet storms and turbulent waters along the way. We are up against very powerful forces. And most importantly we meet these challenges together.
So it is “all hands on deck” in a strong, stable and reliable ship.
National Strike Fund
The best example of that is our National Strike Fund.
Together, we have solved the crisis in our strike fund.
Today, the strike fund is very strong with a cash balance of around $30 million.
And it is so, even though over this past year, we have paid out, so far, over $10 million in strike pay and benefits.
Four years ago, the level of strikes we have experienced this year would have thrown us into a crisis. In fact it did.
But not today.
Today, our strike fund can sustain us.
Just imagine what would be happening in Vancouver today if the Mayor of Vancouver thought CUPE was out of strike pay.
But we don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about that – because that is not what is happening.
Our sisters and brothers on the line in Vancouver are strong!
Or think about our sisters and brothers from the Journal de Québec. Six months on strike and lock-out next week with an employer who is interested only in breaking the union.
They have stood up to that employer and they remain strong!
That employer knows as the City of Vancouver knows, as did all the other employers we have taken on over the past few months, Carleton University and the Town of Hearst in Ontario. They all knew that CUPE members on the line are backed up by the largest, most determined and most powerful union in Canada. The Canadian Union of Public Employees!
It is the power of collective action. Action taken because of our collective decision that put our dollars together for greater power and strength.
We don’t all use the National Strike Fund, but we all contribute and we all benefit.
Follow the money – it tells the story.
The story of the National Strike Fund is the story of the power of collective action.
This week we will make more collective decisions.
And I believe they will be decisions that will also increase our power and strength.
Just about one year ago, I prepared a review of the history of our strike fund for the National Executive Board to consider. Because, I believe it is very important to look to the past in order to understand our best options for the future.
I don’t know if everyone here knows it – so I will tell you. Not once, but twice, we have been forced as an organization to stop distributing strike pay to those already on the picket line – because our strike fund was broke. We would have had to do that a third time, in 1999, but instead a second additional levy called “Solidarity Levy” passed.
In reviewing this history two things became very clear to me.
First, in the entire history of CUPE, the Fund we count on to backstop us at the bargaining table has never been stable – until now.
Two, there has been a constant stress between money for campaigns and money to secure bargaining through a strike fund.
In fact, we found in looking back that each time the strike fund was opened up to finance campaigns, the strike fund went broke.
That is not to say that we should not spend money on campaigns – oh no! the opposite is true.
The National Defence Fund
The importance of campaigning to fight privatization, of working with community and coalition partners and of taking on the political battle everywhere has never been clearer.
Just take a look what campaigns can do.
Over the past two years we have stopped the privatization of wastewater treatment plant in Whistler, British Columbia. We have stopped the privatization of Nursing Home support services in Stellarton, Nova Scotia and in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
We have reversed decisions to privatize ice rinks in Edmonton, water meter reading services in Saskatoon, and water and wastewater maintenance services in Westmount, Quebec.
And in Ontario, the campaign against P3 hospitals forced the Liberal government of the day to reverse its policy decision on P3 hospitals.
Our campaigns are effective and they are without a doubt an absolute necessity for us – collectively.
Because privatization is not going to go away.
In 1963 at our founding convention Stan Little told the delegates, privatization was our biggest threat.
In 2003, in her farewell speech as our National President, Judy Darcy told us privatization would remain our biggest threat.
And everyone here knows it. You read about it in your local newspaper and you can feel it closing around you in your workplace.
Privatization in all its forms is a bad deal for taxpayers, it’s a bad deal for communities and it’s a bad deal for workers. And, even though we are right about it – it has not gone away.
We are up against some very powerful corporate interests. They know that privatization will make them richer – and so their assault continues.
Their power is not just confined to their corporate boardrooms. No, they have political power too.
In the federal government and in provincial legislatures all across Canada. And, they have international power – you see it with trade agreements and the current attempts at deep integration with the United States.
And it shows up in our books. Follow the money it tells the story.
Our National Defence Fund is the fund we have to pay for our strategic directions, national and regional campaigns, cost share campaigns and organizing.
The National Defence Fund is the story of CUPE’s ongoing activism.
We made a collective decision in 2001 to split our defence fund into two funds in order to protect the strike fund money. And as you have witnessed on the picket line, in our collective agreements and with my reports on the cash balance – this strategy has worked.
As of 2001, 4 per cent of our per capita revenue goes into the National Defence Fund and this year the budget for all of the work for which we depend on our Defence Fund to pay for was close to $6.5 million.
But, given the threats we face, and the fundamental importance of our activism, the demand for campaign dollars continues to grow.
And the Defence Fund is under stress.
Over the past two years, we have spent $1.3 million from our National Defence Fund on campaigns to fight privatization.
To put that into perspective that represents more than 40 per cent of our total campaign spending.
We could continue this way. But today, I believe it is time to take stock of all of our resources and to fight smarter. And to take some stress off of the National Defence fund.
That is why Paul and I are proposing a new national initiative that will fight privatization in all its forms.
A national initiative that puts all of the power of CUPE – our local power, our power in the regions and our national strength – front and centre in the battle against privatization.
We can do this sisters and brothers. We can be even stronger against the assault than we have been in the past. ____ We have the resources to commit 4 to 5 million dollars over the next two years to this initiative. That’s 4 to 5 million dollars over and above the money we spend from our National Defence Fund.
It will take pressure off the National Defence Fund – and at the same time make a full commitment to stopping the biggest threat to our jobs and our communities.
The General Fund
So, you may well wonder, when I have just described the stress on the National Defence Fund, how it is that we have this money for our privatization initiative.
Well, sisters and brothers, as many of you know, we have three funds in CUPE. Our General Fund is the fund we have for our day-to-day operations. It pays staff salaries, travel and expenses. It pays for our offices, our travel and our National Executive Board.
All three funds are separate and as I have described, they are for different purposes. But all three funds work together to make CUPE function.
And, today we function very well – thanks to you.
We have grown, we have expanded services and we have made important savings. In addition, we have made structural changes to our operations that give us more financial flexibility.
Let me explain.
The story of our General Fund is the story of a wide diversity of locals, large and small, rich and poor. Over 2000 locals from a variety of sectors with different demands, different memberships and different regional realities.
And, we all share resources equitably. Not equally but equitably.
Just 100 of our locals, that is to say just 5 per cent of all locals, provide over 50 per cent of our revenue. And the largest 19 locals representing less than 1 per cent of our locals in CUPE provide 25 per cent of our revenue.
It is very uneven, but our services are not. We try to ensure that every CUPE local gets the same level of service.
This is one of the best examples of our solidarity and our collective power.
For the past four years in a row our year-end revenue results have exceeded our budget projections.
In 2005, per capita revenue was $1 million more than we expected. In 2006, per capita revenue was $4.5 million more than we expected.
Our growth also gives us flexibility to embark on financial decisions that strengthen us even further.
Like our policy to buy rather than rent office space.
Since we last met, we have purchased area offices in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Moncton, New Brunswick and Cornwall, Ontario. And, we have been able to do this without mortgage financing.
Similarly, we have been able to put more money down on our new National Office in Ottawa and negotiate a very low mortgage rate. That will give us absolute cost certainty until the building is finally paid for. No surprises.
This is in addition to the five new offices we purchased before our last convention. Of these, Regina and Saskatchewan offices were bought in 2004 at the combined cost of $1.3 million. Today, their worth exceeds $2 million!
I have spoken to you about the pride CUPE members take from their own office buildings and about the increased visibility this gives us in the community. These are invaluable assets in and of themselves.
But, even more, we have increased our net worth and I am very proud to report that we have crunched the numbers in our office and it is clear.
Over the past few years, we have saved some $4 million on our annual rent costs.
That is $4 million we put to services, to put on the front lines.
And, over the past two years we have saved close to $1 million on our travel costs by entering into an agreement with Air Canada to purchase flight passes for our cross-country travel.
We have also made savings in other areas. Over the past two years we renegotiated with suppliers for telecommunications, computer and office equipment and maintenance. That too made us save more than $1 million.
It all adds up. It adds up to more money to build our union, to service our members and to take collective political action.
Because we have not been making savings on providing service. Since 2005 we have added 31 new staff positions.
We have not been making savings by shortchanging our priorities.
We have put $2 million from our General Fund to our Defence Fund in order to increase the money for local and regional campaigns.
We have not made savings by forgetting our values.
We have supported the victims of natural disasters around the world – Pakistan, Indonesia, Guatemala, New Orleans and here at home with support for the flood victims in Stephenville, Newfoundland.
We have increased our financial muscle at election time with more money to fight provincial, municipal and federal elections.
In fact, this past year we added $500,000 to our General Fund for election spending.
This used to be paid for from the Defence Fund. Moving election spending over to the General Fund does two important things. It recognizes the fact that election work is fundamental to our ongoing work and it relieves pressure on the Defence Fund.
Sisters and brothers, we have made savings where we could and we have spent where it was needed.
Follow the money. It tells the story.
Now, we have the financial clout to move forward with our priorities, respecting our values and our commitment to enhancing and increasing public services, our commitment to equity and our commitment to the environment.
For example, our new national office building in Ottawa uses the latest in green technology. Our barrier free design will include sustainable green space, we will use less water in our washroom facilities, less energy with our power and heating technology and we will use a green housekeeping plan as well as offer a green education program.
We have followed through in our fleet management too. This year, we are able to offer a environmentally friendly hybrid car to the choices available to our staff. They can choose the car that combines gasoline power with electric power to lighten the impact on the environment.
And here at our convention, we have tried to lighten the environmental footprint of 2000 plus people gathering together in a convention centre for a full week. We have provided you with pens that are 100 per cent made from recycled materials. As well, the paper we are using in our convention documents is recycled non-bleached environmentally friendly paper.
Moving Forward Together
We have the financial flexibility to do this and so much more.
Without sacrificing any of the things we do now, we have the money to fully support the strategic directions initiatives coming to this convention floor.
I have already identified the $4 to 5 million we need for our new national initiative to fight privatization.
In addition to this, you have my commitment we will fully fund all the convention’s decisions.
And in the next few days we will also debate the final report and recommendations of our National Women’s Task Force.
Sisters and brothers, the recommendations of the National Women’s Task Force represent the broadest, most extensive consultation ever undertaken in our union.
It was 18 months of very hard work. I would like to thank the members of the task force for both agreeing to this task and for accomplishing it so well.
These 32 women and staff took on this task with passion and commitment.
As a result of their work, we have a list of 54 recommendations to move us forward on removing barriers to women in our union.
I believe these initiatives will move us forward and strengthen our union.
Because, we need to face it sisters and brothers, we do not represent the full diversity of our membership in our leadership – at all levels.
We asked women in CUPE why women are not better represented and they told us, and what they told us forms the basis of the recommendations we will debate this week.
The Women’s Task Force also told us that we need to continue this work. We need to make our union more inclusive for all equity seeking groups and we need to increase the diversity in our leadership.
So I want to tell you all today – very directly – we should have the full debate and we should have the debate on just the merits.
You can put aside any financial concerns that any of those recommendations may raise.
We have the financial strength to move on all of the recommendations including the recommendations to increase the size of the National Executive Board and the number of National Officers.
And we have the financial strength to move forward into the future continuing this work and improving the equity within CUPE.
We have a proud history sisters and brothers. And we have a bright future. As we move to the future we can learn much from our history.
As I said, this week we have a lot to celebrate. From 1963, when some of us did not even have the right to bargain in the public sector, to today.
Today, where HEU can win a victory in the Supreme Court of Canada that means every Union has the fundamental right to exist.
When you think about it, we have come a very long way over the last 44 years.
Our progress is based on our collective determination, our collective power and most of all, our solidarity.
And if we continue with steady determination we will have new milestones.
Milestones like total inclusiveness in our union.
Milestones like an end to poverty and racism.
Milestones like world peace and an absolute end to privatization.
Well we can dream. And my message to you is that we can dream big. We have the financial power and most of all we have the membership power.
As I close, I would like a couple of moments to thank some very important people.
The people who work with me and whose work contributes immensely to the kind of financial result I have been able to report to you today.
In particular, Randy Sykes, our Managing Director of Finance and Administration. Randy came to CUPE in 1972 as a research associate and he has made one of the most consistent and positive contributions to this union of any staff member.
Randy worked side by side with Jeff Rose and with Judy Darcy and I am grateful that over the past six years we have worked alongside.
Randy is responsible for many of the financial improvements we have made. He is the one who provides the day-to-day management of our budget and finds the savings.
Sadly Randy is leaving. He is moving on to a very well earned retirement. I wish him all the best in this new chapter in his life and I offer him my heartfelt thanks.
I also want to give a special thanks to Pam Beattie, Executive Assistant in my office since 2004. Pam is also moving but not to retirement in her case, but to Manitoba to be closer to her partner. Lucky Manitoba, you are getting Pam now! But even though I am sad to see her leave, I know that this is where she belongs, with her loved ones. Thank you so much Pam for all the work you have done. You made a big difference and you’ll be missed.
And I want to thank the rest of the staff in my office as well. Michael Butler, Line Deschamps, Monique Bélair, Paulette Charbonneau and Julie Veit.
And I cannot leave out all the people who help me in the financial side of CUPE. Tammy Greaves our chief accountant. Phyllis Bourque in per capita and Susan Douglas in accounting.
Thank you all for your hard work and support.
I want to also thank the members of the National Executive Board. We have worked hard together over the past two years. It has not always been easy. We have tackled some tough decisions. But I believe we have worked well and made the right decisions.
And Paul. Sisters and brothers, you have a great national president in Paul Moist. He is a great trade unionist and he is committed to all of you. Thank you Paul for leading us and for supporting us.
Finally, I want to thank all of you. It is your commitment to CUPE and your commitment to each other that makes this union great.