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Recommendations of the
National Women’s Task Force

The National Women’s Task Force was created by the adoption of Resolution 106 at the 2005 CUPE National Convention in Winnipeg. The mandate of the Task Force was to consult broadly with CUPE members on women’s equality issues and to examine barriers to women’s participation at all levels of our union. The Task Force was asked to bring back recommendations to advance women’s equality in the union, including structural changes such as new Regional Vice-President (RVP) seats.

The following 54 recommendations were developed by members of the National Women’s Task Force after extensive consultations with CUPE members across the country in 2006 and 2007. Over the course of one year, the Task Force met face-to-face with more than 2,300 members in 196 meetings in 121 communities. Over 4,788 CUPE members responded to our membership survey and 298 locals answered the Local Union Survey.

The National Women’s Task Force presented its findings and preliminary recommendations to provincial division conventions and other CUPE forums during the spring of 2007. At the end of May 2007, we reviewed the feedback we received and finalized our recommendations in this revised Multi-Year Action Plan for Women.

The Task Force believes that these recommendations will strengthen our union for all members. Addressing women’s equality needs in bargaining, changing our union culture so that we are more inclusive of the full diversity of women, and strengthening the skills of women will improve women’s lives at work, at home and in the union. And structural changes will ensure that women’s voices are represented at the highest level of our union.

Our recommendations fall into six priority areas:

Priority Areas for Action:
  • Bargaining agenda to support women;
  • Apply equality throughout the union;
  • Education and training for women;
  • More effective and inclusive union meetings;
  • Leadership development and mentoring for women;
  • Creating a representative union structure.
Bargaining Agenda to Support Women
  1. Hold a national women’s bargaining conference in 2008. The conference would provide an opportunity for members to build strategies and set clear achievable goals on bargaining the full range of diverse women’s issues.
  2. Develop bargaining language on key equality issues and update the “Equality binder”. Develop accountability measures for bringing equality language forward and give staff the time and resources to do this.
  3. Encourage locals and bargaining councils to bargain union leave provisions that support women’s participation in the union (including book offs, back-filling while on union leave, dependent care policies, etc.).
  4. Develop an agenda for legislative changes that addresses women’s equality needs such as a national child care program and improvements to the Employment Insurance program.
  5. Encourage bargaining councils and other strategies that build women’s bargaining power. The majority of women in our union are concentrated in small, fragmented locals with limited ability to make gains in bargaining.
  6. Develop an organizing strategy that focuses on predominantly female sectors with the goal of lifting the wages, benefits and working conditions of women. Apply Equality Throughout the Union
  7. Address inappropriate behaviour at CUPE functions. Develop a Code of Conduct that would be enforced at all meetings and social functions at all levels of the union, including conferences, conventions and schools.
  8. Develop a clear and effective internal harassment procedure to deal with any alleged violation of the Equality Statement by members or staff. This would require constitutional changes.
  9. Explore the idea of an independent ombudsperson. Strengthening our Staff Resources
  10. Create full-time Equality Representative positions in every region. This would require funding to create full-time Equality Representatives in the four regions without one: Maritimes, Atlantic, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
  11. Establish timelines for the implementation of the Action Plan over the next ten years, monitor the implementation of recommendations and provide progress reports every two years to the national convention.
  12. Create a full-time Coordinator of women’s issues within the Equality Branch to advance diverse women’s issues within the union, and move the recommendations of the National Women’s Task Force forward.
  13. Implement mandatory, comprehensive staff training on equality issues and bargaining equality provisions. Priority for training should be directed to new staff and those in the representative trainee program.
  14. Strengthen the staff selection process by:
    • Implementing an Employment Equity plan within CUPE, and actively recruit members from equality-seeking groups.
    • Include as part of selection criteria for new staff that they must show a demonstrated commitment to equality issues.
  15. Describe hiring process for staff (CSU, ATSU, COPE). Post CUPE job descriptions and application forms on website so they are accessible to members. “Thinking Equality”
  16. Implement an equality screen for all national committees and promote to all chartered CUPE organizations (provincial divisions, local unions, district councils) through revised model local bylaws.
  17. Apply an “equality screen” on everything we do in the union so our union is more inclusive of women and members from equality-seeking groups. An “equality screen” acknowledges the different needs and experiences of diverse women, including lesbians, transgender women, women of colour, Aboriginal women and women with disabilities.
  18. Include the Equality Statement in orientation kits for new staff and members.
  19. The National Women’s Task Force supports the principles and actions in the Vancouver Declaration, and calls for the implementation of the declaration. The NWTF notes that there are many common recommendations between our Action Plan and the Vancouver Declaration, and we have integrated a diversity perspective throughout our recommendations. Education and Training
  20. Continue to develop and deliver courses specific to women, especially leadership training and skills development. Course topics to include: how to mentor, public speaking skills, presenting a grievance and facing management, analyzing budgets, speaking with media, consensus-building skills and consensus leadership models, and lobbying politicians.
  21. Make educational courses more accessible to women at all levels of the union by providing scholarships or by subsidizing the costs of attending CUPE schools. In particular, CUPE should subsidize the costs of offering the weeklong Women Breaking Barriers course so that more women, especially women from equality-seeking groups, are able to participate.
  22. Make equality courses a requirement to get diploma from CUPE.
  23. Develop an education course for men on how to be women’s allies.
  24. Include equality issues and Duty to Accommodate course in weeklong courses.
  25. Avoid cancellations of CUPE courses, especially equality courses or courses that build women’s skills. If feasible, provide the course with less than 10 participants.
  26. Develop a course for new members: “My Union”. The course could introduce women to leadership roles, how to move into these roles and how to mentor members.
  27. Develop ways to circulate notices about CUPE schools more broadly so that more rank and file members are aware of educational opportunities.
  28. Use more simple visual tools and promote the use of clear language in our educationals. For example, visual education tools, such as a video, could be used explain the structure of CUPE. More Effective and Inclusive Union Meetings
  29. Encourage locals to make meetings more welcoming and accessible to all members. Provide suggestions on how to involve and engage members: provide child care and food at meetings, consider better meeting times and places so that more members can attend, have shorter and more effective meetings, hold more meetings at the workplace, and consider working toward a consensus instead of voting.
  30. Develop a model dependent care policy to: provide child care or dependent care at union meetings, conferences, conventions and schools; and/or reimburse the dependent care costs of members who participate in union activities. Encourage locals, divisions and district councils to adopt dependent care policies.
  31. Revise model bylaws to incorporate more inclusive practices. Encourage locals to review and amend their bylaws.
  32. Provide financial support to small locals who want to meet the accessibility needs of their members with disabilities to attend meetings, conferences, conventions and schools. Provide accessibility measures, including American Sign Language interpretation, at all CUPE National conventions.
  33. Translate Rules of Order into clear language.
  34. Revise Tips for Chair into clear language, and develop better process for union meetings.
  35. Re-write the members’ oath in clear language and develop a more welcoming process. The current process can be intimidating.
  36. Develop new members kits, include the Equality Statement and make available on CD.
  37. Implement a buddy system in which local executive members and stewards “buddy” with new members.
  38. At conventions and conferences, hold more discussions that do not require “pro” and “con” mikes. This encourages open and respectful discussion rather than divisive debate.
  39. Write clear job descriptions of union positions and committees including time involved. This provides members with a better understanding of different opportunities and time commitments for involvement in the union.
  40. Provide orientation for new members at national conventions. The orientation session would explain how our convention works, provide information about the rules of order and explain how resolutions are debated and approved. CUPE could provide a laminated sheet with rules of order in clear language for new delegates. Leadership Development and Mentoring for Women Skills Development
  41. Develop a mentoring program for women leaders and allocate resources for the program from the General Fund. This program would develop the mentoring skills of current leaders, provide resources to develop the skills of women activists with leadership potential, especially women from equality-seeking groups and provide organized support systems for new women leaders.
  42. Provide training for every new local president on how to be an effective leader. This would include training on: how to delegate and share tasks, how to chair an effective meeting, and understanding equality issues.
  43. Develop a resolution to National Convention 2007 to amend the Constitution to allow for co-presidents or officers.
  44. Develop job shadowing for union positions (NEB, locals, etc.). Organizing Women
  45. Encourage the creation of women’s committees at every level of the union. Promote existing materials on women’s committees and encourage women to organize around the full diversity of women’s issues, including the struggles of women of colour, Aboriginal women, lesbians, transgender women and women with disabilities.
  46. Hold women’s caucuses at each convention (national, division) automatically. We need to create the space for women to connect, learn about women’s issues and strategize for change.
  47. Engage women in community campaigns and job actions (child care, pay equity and Up with Women’s Wages, casual and temporary jobs, employment equity, long-term care campaign, coordinated bargaining plan for all sectors, etc.).
  48. Continue outreach to small locals, along the lines of consultations that the NWTF held with members.
  49. Encourage the development of reimbursement policies – similar to CUPE National’s policy – that make it easier for women to participate in union activities. This includes: policies to provide advances on expenses, central payment of hotel costs, etc. Creating a Representative Union Structure
  50. Clarify and make transparent the process for electing Regional Vice-Presidents (RVPs) at the national convention. Amend the Constitution so that delegates elect their RVP(s) in regional caucuses instead of by all delegates on the convention floor. This would put in writing the present practice of caucus choice.
  51. Create two new full-time Executive Vice-President positions for a total of four (4) full-time National Officers. Of the four National Officers, gender parity shall be applied: two (2) officers must be women and two (2) shall be men. The decision to create these new Executive Vice-President positions would be made at the 2007 National Convention, and the election to fill the positions would take place at the 2009 National Convention and thereafter.
  52. Create four (4) new Regional Vice-President (RVP) positions to ensure a minimum representation of women on the National Executive Board. The four RVP positions would be distributed among the following provinces:
    • Two additional RVPs for Ontario (for a total of five RVPs, at least two of which must be women);
    • One additional RVP for Quebec (for a total of three RVPs, at least one of which must be a woman); and,
    • One additional RVP for B.C.(for a total of three RVPs, at least one of which must be a woman).
  53. The gender requirement for the above positions of National Officers and Regional Vice-Presidents shall expire at the 2017 National Convention.
  54. Women from equality-seeking groups will be encouraged and supported to run for the above positions.