One of the ways CUPE locals can support reconciliation is by bargaining language supporting Indigenous workers into collective agreements. Our new guide, Truth and reconciliation: CUPE taking action through collective bargaining, is for everyone who wants to put reconciliation into action at the bargaining table.
Negotiating decent terms and conditions of work is at the heart of a union’s mission. This guide is a crucial resource for CUPE locals, bargaining committees, members, CUPE staff, and other activists to support Indigenous members and reconciliation efforts. It gives guidance on negotiating contract language that ensures all Indigenous CUPE members enjoy dignity and equality in the workplace.
The guide also has a checklist summarizing what locals can do, and what collective agreements should include, to support reconciliation. It features examples of collective agreement language about:
- Land acknowledgements and Indigenous sovereignty
- Indigenous rights and non-discrimination
- Representative workforce
- Targeted hiring and job posting
- In-service training for Indigenous workers
- Leave of absence
- Paid holidays
- Hours of work and payment of wages
- Indigenous pension plans
- Inclusion of Elders at grievances and other meetings
It is important to understand that historically, unions have not always fought for the rights of Indigenous workers. Because of this, unions have not always been places where Indigenous people feel welcomed. Yet, Indigenous members want the same things as non-Indigenous members: decent wages and working conditions, and the right to be treated fairly and with dignity in the workplace.
Many Indigenous CUPE members are carrying the weight of colonial trauma. This includes surviving the residential school system, the 60’s scoop, or being an intergenerational survivor of these systems.
It is the duty of all unions, including CUPE, to begin repairing this relationship. To begin restoring the trust of Indigenous workers and communities, unions must take actions showing a commitment to reconciliation.
Even if no members of your local have self-identified as Indigenous, it is still recommended that your local move forward on reconciliation initiatives. Building relationships with Indigenous workers is part of building a strong union.