Province’s largest union meets in Victoria

B.C.’s largest union is celebrating a year of bargaining successes as members gather from across the province for the 2023 CUPE BC convention. CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta kicked off the convention, being held this week in Victoria, by congratulating CUPE locals for bargaining some of the best improvements for workers in Canada.

In her opening address Thursday evening to over 500 convention delegates and guests, Ranalletta acknowledged the role a provincial government that promotes collaboration with unions - a troubling rarity in Canada - played in these gains. But she gave most of the credit to a unified labour movement.

“By coming together with others in the public sector—building a strong and unified voice for working people—we were able to demand fair treatment for public workers in all sectors, and importantly, a fair wage adjustment that actually reflected the massive rise in the cost of living for working families,” said Ranalletta. “It was through this solidarity and unity that we produced an historic outcome for working people.”

Over the four-day convention, delegates will be discussing a wide range of issues affecting workers and their communities, including affordable housing, privatization of public services, workplace safety, human rights, and the timely topic of public transportation.

As CUPE delegates meet in Victoria, over 200 public transit workers are in their sixth week on strike in the Fraser Valley. Ranalletta rallied convention delegates to support these CUPE members fighting for wages in line with other transit workers and a pension from First Transit, the multinational corporation contracted to provide transit services in Fraser Valley communities.

“We have never shied away from a difficult fight. We are ready to continue this long-haul struggle,” said Ranalletta. “Our message is clear: The busses of the Fraser Valley will not roll until these workers get wage justice, and retirement security. Full stop.”

Ranalletta called on CUPE members to continuing strengthening public service and recommit to protecting them from privatization. In particular, she called for CUPE BC to renew its campaign for publicly provided universal child care.

“Across British Columbia, the poor economics of privatized childcare continues to fall squarely on the shoulders of childcare workers,” said Ranalletta, who has led CUPE BC since 2021. “I am ready to continue this fight, to support the BC government’s continued expansion of childcare in our province and to provide a public option for every family who needs safe and reliable childcare.”