Division conventions are a vital part of our union’s democratic process. They set the priorities in each region for the following year and decide the direction CUPE will take.
This year many regions opted to get outside of the major urban centres, holding conventions in smaller communities like Yarmouth, NS; Gander, NL; and Dauphin, MB.
CUPE National President Paul Moist and National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury attended every division convention, covering more than 25,000 kilometres in the process. At each convention Moist hosted a special economic literacy breakfast to talk with CUPE members about economic issues that affect Canadian workers. The interactive presentation makes economics accessible for everyone and debunks many of the myths associated with public service cuts and corporate tax breaks.
Here are a few highlights from each region.
Re-elected President of CUPE Saskatchewan, Tom Graham, expressed his concerns over looming cuts in the upcoming provincial budget and joined the convention in calling for a review of the Human Rights Commission following the reduction in front-line staff by 30 per cent with a group lay-off last month.
Human Rights Commission workers who suffered the group-layoff spoke at the convention during an emergency resolution, which was subsequently unanimously passed, condemning the commission’s actions and calling for an independent review.
In her first report since becoming president in 2011, Marle Roberts outlined a busy year full of campaigning against privatization, travel, and political action.
Education and water issues took up much of Robert’s time last year, but there was also extensive work done on behalf of CUPE members in the long-term care sector, as well as planning for a provincial election held April 23.
Five CUPE members ran for the NDP, and the party doubled its representation in the Alberta legislature, going from two seats to four.
Members took in a presentation for a new pension plan model based on the Dutch Civil Servants Pension Fund. Following convention, the NB Council of Hospital Unions signed a memorandum of understanding and will transfer to the new plan, effective July 1, 2012.
CUPE NB also offered support to community groups concerned about severe environmental consequences of shale gas extraction, and committed to lobbying the government to stop exploration and development of this energy.
CUPE Nova Scotia debated the latest federal and provincial budgets, the Canada European Trade Agreement (CETA) and the resolved to continue the fight to reform the Canada Pension Plan.
Guest speakers included Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter and Francisca Castro, a representative from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers in the Philippines.
CUPE BC adopted a renewed action plan that will see the union focus on key strategic priorities in the year leading to the next provincial election and beyond. The theme for this year’s convention was “Working to make Communities Work.” Delegates to the four-day convention debated a wide range of issues and resolutions and heard from BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Delegates to the CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador convention offered support to the Quebec student movement that is fighting dramatic tuition fee increases and rising student debt. The convention unanimously supported a resolution submitted by CUPE Local 4554, the Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union.
Delegates also discussed the impact the comprehensive economic trade agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU, could have on the province, a public early childhood education and care system for the province, strategies for fighting Stephen Harper’s plan to cut retirement security (Old Age Security), and a proposed tax on food in the province.
Convention delegates welcomed Manitoba’s recently re-elected NDP Premier Greg Selinger, and Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre, Pat Martin as guest speakers.
Kelly Moist was also acclaimed to a second term as President of CUPE Manitoba. Delegates adopted an action plan for 2012-13 focussed on building activism, standing up for all working people and fighting the Harper agenda.
Prince Edward Island
For the first time in their history, CUPE members from Prince Edward Island will have a full-time president to represent them. CUPE PEI convention delegates voted in favour of this change. In the past, division presidents were booked off from work on a regular basis to conduct union business.
Hundreds of CUPE members packed Charles Clark Square in Windsor for a rally held during the Ontario convention. Members were calling on Ontario’s Liberal government to end its attack on public services.
CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn, who was acclaimed to a second term, also raised the alarm over Schedule 28, a section of the budget bill that allows the government to privatize public services with no debate in the legislature.
Over the past year, CUPE Ontario has campaigned for increases to social assistance rates, fair taxation, and improved child care, health care and elder care.
The Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) will hold its convention Nov. 4 to 10 in Vancouver. CUPE Quebec holds conventions every two years, and will host its next one in 2013.