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What’s CUPE’s formula for bargaining gains in the new millennium?

Delegates to the national convention adopted an action plan to capitalize on recent successes. It sets out the following bargaining agenda:

  • coordinate and centralize negotiations, especially among sectoral groups;
  • broaden the issues to include training for tech change, successor rights, workload and membership control of pension plans;
  • fend off concessions and promote public enterprise.

The action plan commits the union to set up sectoral bargaining structures with improved research support. Delegates to convention learned that many of the best settlements in the past year were won by larger groups. Coordinated bargaining is a growing success across the country as larger groups are wielding greater clout.

“We’re back at the table, making gains, because we have the solid backing of members,” says the action plan. Flight attendants at Air Canada, Hydro-Québec employees and Saskatchewan health care workers held the line in contract talks by supporting their bargaining teams to victory.

“We need to continue to fight for wage increases,” says the action plan. “We need to continue to fight particularly hard to bring up the wages of our lowest-paid members, most of whom are women, racial minorities and young workers. But we also have to fight for decent working conditions, and an end to impossible workloads.”

Collective bargaining is at the heart of the action plan. Contract gains can go beyond the traditional wages and benefits to advance CUPE’s other goals: countering privatization by promoting public services, making progress on equality and organizing the unorganized by expanding membership and jobs.

Because workload and stress are the number one health and safety issues in our union, they must be addressed and resolved at the bargaining table, says the action plan. There is also an emphasis on pensions, to ensure “every member becomes an active shareholder in his or her pension plan by bargaining provisions giving our members a voice in managing this critical investment.”

Tracy Morey