The National Defence Fund Task Force was created at the last National Convention to explore long-term solutions to strengthen the Defence Fund.
At the same convention, delegates also approved a Solidarity Levy to guarantee striking CUPE members could continue to count on strike pay, and that members without the right to strike would continue to have access to support for strike-averting expenses.
These measures were put in place because the uniona increased mobilization and militancy was putting a greater strain on the defence fund than previously anticipated. The defence fund was, in a sense, a victim of the union’s success. This activity reached a peak in the summer of 1999.
The shortfall in the Fund was caused by a number of factors:
- More, longer and bigger strikes. After years of wage freezes and restrictions on free collective bargaining, CUPE members were fighting back hard-and winning-real wage and benefit increases, and protection from concessions and contracting out. These strikes, however, drew dramatically increased amounts from the National Defence Fund in strike pay and benefits than in previous years. In fiscal 1998-1999, $11 million was paid out in strike pay, strike benefits, and strike averting costs-an increase of 112% in strike related costs over the previous year! At the same time, income into the Fund was only $13.1 million.>
- Forced mergers/restructuring of local unions.
- An increase in weekly strike pay to $200 per week from $150 (33 1/2%), starting January 1, 1998.