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Workers Out! a great success

CUPE delegates have returned home from the Workers Out! conference in Montreal prepared to make a difference for lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) members.

CUPE was a major partner of the Workers Out! conference. Over three days last week, some 350 participants from labour organizations all over the world participated in workshops, plenary sessions and roundtable discussions. They were working on an international strategic plan to help unions take up the struggle for LGBT rights in the workplace and in society.

Canada is better than most places,” said Jean-Pierre LeClerc, a member of CUPE’s National Pink Triangle Committee. “LGBT people have more or less achieved legal equality. But we haven’t achieved social equality yet. We want to reach the point where everyone is indifferent to differences, whether it’s LGBT, people of colour, people with disabilities – all equity-seeking groups.”

Many CUPE activists, officers and staff spoke at the conference, including LeClerc, National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux, CUPE Ontario Treasurer Fred Hahn, and national staff member Michael Butler. Former CUPE member Trish Salah gave a presentation on the challenges facing transsexuals and transgender people in the workplace.

Many more members in attendance asked questions and made thoughtful observations at the microphones. They included CUPE 4400 member (Toronto school support staff) Martine Stonehouse and an energetic young delegation from CUPE 391 (Vancouver public libraries). The CUPE 391 members shared their experiences in their web log. The conference culminated with the adoption of a global union action plan for LGBT workers.

Workers Out! was organized by labour organizations in Canada and Quebec, including the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec. It was part of a broader conference on LGBT human rights, which in turn is a major component of the 1st World Outgames, an international gathering of LGBT athletes and artists and their supporters taking place in Montreal at the same time.

Thousands of people were on hand at the games’ opening ceremonies to hear tennis great Martina Navratilova and Canadian Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury read the Declaration of Montreal. This document will be presented to the United Nations and to governments to mobilize greater international support for LGBT rights.

CUPE 774, City of Abbotsford reach agreement

Abbotsford City Council has approved a Memorandum of Agreement reached late last week and ratified by members of CUPE 774, bringing to an end a 24-day job action. Employees returned to work July 30.

We are pleased that the dispute between the parties has been settled,” said CUPE 774 President Joe Rodrigue. “The agreement redresses to some extent the wage disparity for the union.”

Rodrigue also thanked the citizens of Abbotsford for the support they showed to members during this dispute.

The five-year agreement, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2005 and ending Dec. 31, 2009, includes general wage increases of 3 per cent per year from 2005 through 2008 and a wage increase of 3.5 per cent in 2009. The City will also match the average of wage settlements negotiated for 2009 in the local governments of Chilliwack, Mission and Langley Township if they are greater than 3.5 per cent.

Other highlights of the settlement include market adjustments for below-market positions and improvements to the benefit package.

The tentative agreement follows a difficult set of negotiations that began in April 2005. The collective agreement expired Dec. 31, 2004. The local’s 463 members voted 82 per cent in favour of strike action in May, and went on strike on June 26.

Wage parity with other municipalities and term of agreement were major issues in negotiations. On July 13, CUPE 774 members rejected an agreement reached with the City. This time, the ratification vote passed with more than 80 per cent of members supporting the package.

Cape Breton cafeteria workers request meeting with school board

The cafeteria workers of CUPE 5050 have sent a counter-offer to the Cape Breton-Victoria School Board this morning and have requested a meeting with the chair to discuss the closure of school cafeterias.

The board announced on Friday it would be closing school cafeterias permanently. The members of CUPE 5050 had rejected an offer from the board involving the terms of layoffs and re-training.

Negotiations are ongoing and there will be more information as it becomes available.

Livingstone Range dispute threatens start of school year

The Livingstone Range School Board labour dispute threatens to disrupt the school year in Crow’s Nest Pass, Fort Macleod, and Pincher Creek, Alberta.

The board locked out the 100 secretarial, custodial, library, and teaching assistant employees two weeks ago, forcing CUPE to serve strike notice. The board has said it will not come to the negotiating table before Aug. 17.

CUPE has been asking the school board to get back to the bargaining table since June,” said Laurella Trotter, President of CUPE 2133. “By refusing to negotiate until Aug. 17, the board is coming perilously close to disrupting the school year for hundreds of children.”

It is now illegal for CUPE 1233 members to enter Livingstone Range School Division property. The union has told its members to avoid LRSD property, as CUPE is not responsible for fines levied against members who disregard the notice.

Furthermore, the board is withholding vacation pay from workers. It has also chosen to reduce cleaning time for custodians in Fort Macleod, which will inevitably result in a lower level of maintenance and cleanliness.

Instead of handling the negotiations, the board has hired an Edmonton-based management consultant, at considerable cost to taxpayers. School boards that have handled negotiations themselves, such as Lethbridge, have experienced a much smoother bargaining process.

Among other things, board members are demanding greater contracting out of services and greater use of casual employees. CUPE has launched a summer ad campaign to fight contracting out and casualization.

St-Jean-sur-Richelieu outside workers set to strike

Outside workers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, south of Montreal, will be on strike as of Monday, Aug. 7.

The job action is in response to the drastic, hardline measures the City has taken against its outside workers, and particularly against union officers,” CUPE Representative Serge Leboeuf said late last week. “We want to give the citizens advance warning of the strike so they know what to expect.”

Relations between the City and its employees have been particularly difficult over the past few months. Several local municipalities were amalgamated into the new City of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu in 2001, but by 2005 workers still hadn’t signed a collective agreement.

An arbitrator finally settled a contract for outside workers, members of CUPE 3055, covering the period from Jan. 1, 2002 to Dec. 31, 2005. But no sooner had the agreement come into effect than the City began trying to go around it. Since then, tensions between the employer and workers have run high.

In April 2006, a dispute between the City and outside workers over new work assignments eventually led to a lockout (the City considered it an illegal strike). In June, City Council fired CUPE 3055’s President, temporarily suspended two members of the Local Executive Board and 25 auxiliary staff and issued two disciplinary notices to all union members.

CUPE represents around 70 per cent of municipal workers in Quebec.

Tentative agreement reached with Upper Canada District School Board

Negotiators for CUPE 5678, representing 1,400 workers in Eastern Ontario public elementary and secondary schools, have reached a tentative agreement in mediation talks with the Upper Canada District Board.

This was a difficult round of negotiations and our members have been waiting a long time for this,” said Susan Hanson, President of CUPE 5678. “I am glad the talks are behind us.”

The tentative agreement will go to members for a ratification vote. Details of the agreement will not be released until after the vote, Sept. 9.

Ottawa local files for conciliation after bargaining with Salus Corporation breaks down

After eight weeks of unsuccessful attempts to make progress through bargaining, CUPE is asking for a conciliator to end the stalemate between CUPE 3942 and the Ottawa Salus Housing Corporation.

Salus is the largest housing and community support agency in the region, serving 350 clients who suffer from chronic mental illness.

CUPE 3942, which represents 60 full-time case workers, community development and maintenance workers, has been unable to get Salus to address non-monetary concerns, including staffing levels and job security in the face of the looming impact of the establishment of local health integration networks (LHINs).

The employer isn’t willing to discuss monetary issues,” said Paul Boileau, a member of the negotiating committee. “Despite a wage scale lower than other Ottawa mental health agencies, we have been told there is just 1.5 per cent for wage and pay equity requirements.”

More care aides vote to join HEU

Care aides employed by private contractor Simpe ‘Q’ Care Inc., and working at two British Columbia seniors’ residential facilities have overwhelmingly chosen to become members of the Hospital Employees’ Union after the B.C. Labour Relations Board ordered the union’s representation votes counted on July 27.

At Windermere Care Centre in Vancouver and Inglewood Care Centre in West Vancouver, care aides voted 87 per cent and 96 per cent respectively in favour of joining HEU. More than 300 Simpe ‘Q’ employees – 161 care aides working at Windermere and 155 at Inglewood – are HEU’s newest members.

Labour Board Vice-Chair Jan O’Brien ordered the vote count at Windermere after concluding that Simpe ‘Q’ had breached the code “by interfering in its employees’ choice of bargaining agent” and that a voluntary recognition agreement with the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) “is not in force at Windermere”.

In her decision, O’Brien noted, “if the Windermere representation vote favours the certification of the HEU… the Inglewood vote…will be counted.”

The votes took place at Windermere May 4 and at Inglewood on May 8, but both remained sealed pending the outcome of the LRB hearing.

HEU Secretary-Business Manager Judy Darcy called the Labour Board ruling and the results of the two votes a victory for workers.

The care aides at Windermere and Inglewood have the right to choose their own union, and the Labour Board recognized and upheld that right,” said Darcy.

I am very pleased that they voted so solidly to become HEU members and applaud their determination in the face of intimidation and employer interference.”

Getting a first collective agreement is the next order of business.

In preparation for negotiations with Simpe ‘Q’, we’ll be holding meetings with our Windermere and Inglewood members to determine their bargaining priorities and elect a bargaining committee. Our goal is to get to the bargaining table and reach a first contract as soon as possible.”