CUPE National statement on Ontario vote to support Israel boycott
CUPE members will have read about the CUPE Ontario vote held at its annual convention in Ottawa on May 27 to support a boycott of Israel.
CUPE National has a policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was adopted at our 2003 national convention. That policy states that we:
- demand that the Israeli government immediately withdraw from the occupied territories and abide by UN Resolution 242 and 338;
- call for and actively work towards an end to all acts of violence that take the lives of innocent people, be they Palestinian or Israeli; and,
- help develop a peace process based on equality between Israelis and Palestinians and based on the implementation of United Nations resolutions and international law.
CUPE National respects the right of its chartered organizations to take a stand on all issues. We are governed by policy resolutions adopted at our national conventions. As such, we will not be issuing a call to our local unions across Canada to boycott Israel.
CUPE encourages democratic debate on international issues. Debates on the Middle East should respect the legitimate aspirations of both the Palestinian and Israeli people.
National groups plan public health care campaign
National President Paul Moist hosted a major meeting of national organizations yesterday to discuss plans for a joint national campaign to protect and enhance our public health care system.
“Public health care is Canadians’ proudest achievement,” Moist said. “We embrace it as a social right in Canada, one that speaks to our best values of fairness, pragmatism, inclusion and hope.”
Underscoring these values will be a major feature of the coming campaign, Moist said following the gathering of public and private sector unions, social movement organizations and provincial health coalitions.
Also attending the meeting for CUPE was Michael Hurley, President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and Co-chair of CUPE’s National Health Care Issues Committee.
It marked the first time in years these groups have met face to face to plan health care campaigning.
The aim is to make health care a major issue in the lead-up to the next federal election. The organizations will meet again soon to flesh out campaign targets, timelines and resources, and increase daily communication among the groups.
“It was important to share our insights and experiences to help us work better together,” Moist said. “For that, it was a very successful meeting and points the way forward. CUPE is proud to be part of it.”
A “solidarity statement” flowing from the meeting is forthcoming.
Hundreds rally for child care on Parliament Hill
Hundreds of people rallied on Parliament Hill last Sunday to push the Harper government for a universal child care program.
Advocates brought thousands of paper dolls and stuffed animals to symbolize the 7,000 Ottawa children on child care waiting lists.
The rally attracted Ottawa child care workers, parents and kids, and CUPE Ontario members in town for their annual convention.
Speakers called for public, quality, not-for-profit early learning and child care programs across the country.
CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan noted the symbolism of the clock atop the Peace Tower, which stopped earlier this week and is awaiting repair.
“Let’s get the clock ticking on this government!” Ryan said.
New Democrat member of Parliament Olivia Chow warned the Conservatives that her party was going to keep the pressure on.
“Child care is not child’s play,” Chow said. “Stop playing games, Mr. Harper. Grow up and build a real child care program.”
Thousands attend memorial service for British Columbia paramedics
Thousands of mourners, including more than 1,000 uniformed ambulance paramedics, firefighters, police and coast guard officers from across Canada, attended a moving memorial service honouring two paramedics who died at a British Columbia mine earlier this month.
The service was for Kim Weitzel, 44, and Shawn Currier, 21, members of CUPE 873 (Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.), and for the two Sullivan mine workers they were trying to rescue, contractor Douglas Erickson, 48, and Teck Cominco employee Robert Newcombe, 49.
The mourners crammed into the Kimberley Civic Centre for the service, which was organized by the B.C. Ambulance Service. CUPE 873 President John Strohmaier addressed the crowd with a stirring speech about the daily risks paramedics face in serving their communities.
“The fact that so many people have shown up here today is a testament not only to the devastating impact this tragedy has had on a local community,” said CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill, who also paid his respects. “It also speaks to the outstanding solidarity among emergency workers across this country, and how highly our communities regard the work that they do.”
CUPE 873 has set up a trust fund for the Weitzel and Currier families. Those wishing to donate are asked to send guaranteed funds (i.e., money order deposits) to the Kimberley Paramedics Memorial Trust Fund, (transit # 02560, account # 5060074), Royal Bank of Canada, 375 Wallinger Avenue, Kimberley, British Columbia, V1A 1Z3.
While O’Neill was in Kimberley, CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer Mark Hancock was attending another memorial on Vancouver Island. This one was for CUPE 1858 member David Pringle, a member of CUPE BC’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee, who died last week at age 60.
“The timing of these two memorials is sadly ironic, given that the OH&S Committee has been pushing for provincial legislation and standards to better protect workers and prevent the kind of tragedies that happened at the Sullivan mine,” Hancock said.
Striking Ontario school board workers buoyed by support
Striking Thames Valley District School Board workers received over $120,000 in donations and pledges from the CUPE Ontario convention in Ottawa last weekend. The donations and pledges came from CUPE locals, CUPE National and CUPE Ontario.
“These donations are a reminder that we do not stand alone,” said Helena McConkie, spokesperson for CUPE 4222, Unit C. “This is in addition to the ongoing support we receive from our national union for strike pay and other assistance. It really helps us knowing we can sustain our strike with dignity, until we achieve our goals on behalf of the students we serve.”
McConkie said delegates from other Ontario school board locals attending convention told her they face the same issues in their schools.
“It’s time for school boards to stop fighting frontline workers and demand the Ministry of Education provide the necessary funding to support our services,” McConkie said. “Otherwise school board workers from our sister locals will soon be joining us on the picket lines, demanding adequate time to work with students.”
The Thames Valley educational and instructional assistants have been on strike since May 11. They are demanding additional time to do their work with special needs students. Currently, they only get paid for six hours a day, even though most work through their breaks and stay late to complete their workload.
“We are still on the picket line, while the school board lets unqualified scabs attempt to do our work and students are suffering,” McConkie said.
“The school board has squandered budget surpluses without investing in services for students,” said Jennifer Kaufman, a CUPE National Representative. “The trustees and the board knew about this issue three years ago but chose not to address the needs of students. It’s time for the board to listen to the workers and parents and end this strike.”
Edmonton brings more work in-house
City of Edmonton workers, members of CUPE 30, are praising a decision to cancel a turf contract with a private company and have the work done by city employees.
The cancellation of the contract means only 9 per cent of turf mowing work will be contracted out, down from 33 per cent in the mid 1990s.
“For three years, we’ve been making the case to city council and senior staff that contracting out makes no sense,” said CUPE 30 President Alex Grimaldi. “It costs more, the labour supply is less stable, and the work is often sloppy and unprofessional. City employees give far better service to Edmonton.”
Grimaldi encouraged the city to move forward in other areas where contractors do city work, including swimming pool management and waste collection.
HEU urges better protection against needle injuries
The Hospital Employees’ Union, CUPE’s health care sector arm in British Columbia, is calling on WorkSafe BC to strengthen its proposed new regulation to ensure workers are afforded the highest possible protection from injuries related to needles and other sharp medical implements.
Speaking at a public hearing on the proposed regulation, HEU’s Occupational Health and Safety Representative Ana Rahmat said that although the proposed regulation was an important step forward in addressing needlestick injuries, it didn’t go far enough.
“By limiting the regulation’s coverage to hollow bore needles used for vein access, workers will not be adequately protected from injuries from other sharp objects,” she said. “Procedures limited to hollow bore needles account for only 30 per cent of all medical sharps procedures.”
HEU urged WorkSafeBC, the provincial workers’ compensation board, to:
- expand the proposed regulation to cover all medical sharps procedures;
- require health employers to maintain medical sharp injury logs to aid in tracking the injuries taking place;
- consult with the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee, and workers, regarding the selection, implementation and evaluation of safety engineered devices; and,
- to move the regulation’s phase-in period from January 2008 to April 2007.
New Brunswick teachers’ assistants need to be part of the inclusion process
The New Brunswick government needs to talk to all stakeholders if it wants to improve the inclusion of students with disabilities in the education system, says CUPE 2745, representing provincial school district employees.
CUPE 2745 President Sandy Harding was disappointed that teaching assistants and school intervention workers were not invited to the “Inclusive Education Forum,” in Fredericton this week.
The forum brought together stakeholder groups, parents, teachers and students to provide input on the development of a government action plan on inclusive education. Delegates were also invited to provide direction on how the government should spend the $5 million it has allocated to special needs education.
“The TAs and school intervention workers are clear stakeholders in this process, and their absence is indicative of the lack of understanding of the important role they play in the education system,” Harding said.
A recent New Brunswick government commissioned report on inclusive education recognizes that TAs are the primary service providers for many of the day-to-day support services to students with disabilities. The report also pointed out that their limited hours of work prevent them from being included as full participants in the educational team.
“Many recommendations in the study directly affect TAs and school intervention workers as well as, to a lesser extent, library assistants and clerical workers,” Harding said.
“Many more suggestions came out of this week’s forum. We hope the minister looks at some of them as they pertain to our group. We need professional development and full-time hours to spend more time with the students that need help, meeting with teachers and other professionals and fulfilling other duties.”
Alberta government is choking school boards… “If parents knew”
CUPE school support workers met last weekend in Edmonton to discuss funding for special needs students and deferred maintenance projects on schools.
“If parents knew how much money actually makes it to the classrooms, they would be up in arms,” said CUPE Alberta Education Chair Richard Scarfe. “Despite an $8-billion surplus, the government chokes school boards by not properly funding public education.”
Scarfe said many school boards waste funding directed to special needs students by spending the money on top-heavy administration.
Also of concern was maintenance funding. Drake Hammill, President of CUPE 40, made a presentation on the deferred deficit in Calgary Public Schools maintenance. Hammill spoke of leaky roofs that led to the closure of several schools in Calgary on May 27. Crumbling infrastructure is the result of chronic underfunding and deferred maintenance of Calgary schools, he said.
Hammill challenged the government to act immediately to complete deferred maintenance projects and adjust the funding formula for Alberta Public Schools.
Strike looms in Cornwall, Ontario
Inside workers with the City of Cornwall will be in a legal strike or lockout position at 12:01 am, June 17, if management negotiators don’t back away from concession demands.
“It looks like city management wants to force our members out on strike,” said Bob Manny, a CUPE National Representative. “They’re tabling a long list of concessions and rollbacks, demanding a five-year contract, and refusing to negotiate with us on any substantive issues. Essentially they want to gut our collective agreement.”
CUPE 3251 represents 125 inside workers, including social workers and water treatment workers. “Social assistance and safe drinking water are essential to the health and viability of our community,” Manny said. “Residents should be furious with city management for putting these services at risk.”
City negotiators requested a “no-board” report to start the countdown to the June 17 strike or lockout deadline. Mediation talks have been scheduled for June 9.
“Management has also requested a no-board report for paramedics, without an essential services agreement in place to ensure the safety of residents,” Manny said.
No date has been set for a strike deadline for paramedics, as CUPE is exploring legal options, including the possibility of arbitration to reach a collective agreement without a strike by 80 Cornwall paramedics.
“We urge residents to contact the mayor and local councillors and remind them that November’s municipal elections are just around the corner,” Manny said.
Prince Albert City negotiators “irresponsible”
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, city negotiators walked out of a bargaining session with city workers this week – a move CUPE called “irresponsible.”
In response to a union counter-offer, the employer’s committee, headed up by the city manager, Roman Martinuk, left the bargaining table and told the union “to do what they have to do,” said Bryan Brotzel, a CUPE National Representative.
CUPE 882 represents about 120 inside workers, including employees in administration, aquatics, concessions and playgrounds. The workers have been trying to conclude a new agreement for more than two years. Earlier this month, they voted 97 per cent in favour of job action. Morale is at an all-time low.
Brotzel says the contract should have been settled in February when CUPE felt it had a tentative agreement to recommend to its members. But in late February, the employer pulled the offer, a move that resulted in the union filing an unfair labour practice. No new bargaining dates have been set.
Livingstone Range school employees vote to strike
Custodial employees, teaching assistants, bus drivers and other workers at the Livingstone Range School Division in Fort MacLeod, Alberta, have voted 88 per cent in favour of a strike with a 90 per cent turnout of eligible voters.
CUPE 2133 members are angry at proposals that would eliminate job security and turn long-time employees into casual, contract workers.
“The school district should be ashamed of itself,” said CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz. “No other school district in the province is putting forward these kinds of proposals.”
The union will try to negotiate with the employer on June 7. If talks fail, job action will be considered.
Calgary elderly care workers choose CUPE
A group of about 135 employees at Age Care Beverly seniors’ home in Calgary have joined CUPE.
The employees, including nursing assistants, personal care workers and occupational and recreational therapists, voted 92 per cent in favour of joining.
CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz said the employees approached the union with concerns about staffing levels, lack of overtime pay and no pension plan.
“The working conditions at Age Care Beverly are significantly worse than conditions at other seniors’ facilities where CUPE represents the employees,” Lanovaz said. “These employees are below the standard at union facilities and we will work hard to bring their wages and working conditions into line.”
CUPE represents about 6,000 health care workers in Alberta.
Health care wait times top Nova Scotia poll of concerns for unionized workers
As Nova Scotians get set to go to the polls on June 13, unionized workers say their top concerns are health care wait times, cost of home heating fuel, poverty, and healthy, safe workplaces.
Respondents to a poll commissioned by the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour (NSFL) were asked to rank 12 issues between 1-5, with five being the most important and one the least. Top concerns are health care wait times (4.60), cost of home heating fuel (4.50), poverty (4.38) and healthy, safe workplaces (4.31).
“While wait times and home heating fuel should not be a big surprise,” said CUPE Nova Scotia President Danny Cavanagh. “The fact that unionized workers – supposedly the ones with the decent-paying jobs in our province – have named poverty in the top three, reflects just how big a problem this issue is for Nova Scotians. I commend our members for making poverty a priority.
“I was also very pleased to see healthy and safe workplaces in the top four,” Cavanagh said. “This tells us the hard work of CUPE locals is starting to pay off in bringing issues like violence in the workplace and needless workplace fatalities to the fore.”
With 30 per cent of Nova Scotia’s workforce being unionized, this poll represents a significant slice of public opinion in this first-ever province-wide poll by the NSFL. When spouses and voting age children in the same household are factored in, it represents well over 50 per cent of voters.
The survey was conducted between May 5 and 10, 2006. More than 700 random interviews were conducted with individuals aged 18 or older in households where at least one occupant is a union member or retired union member.
The poll is accurate within a margin of 3.7 points, 19 times in 20.
Three CUPE candidates running in Nova Scotia
Three CUPE members are running as NDP candidates in the Nova Scotia provincial election. They are:
Kim Cail, a home support worker and president of her local, is running in Cumberland North in the province’s northeast. With 17 years experience as a health care worker and 11 years experience as a certified personal care worker, Kim became involved in politics through the Amherst Labour Council.
Charles Muise, a hospital worker, is running in Arglye in the province’s southwest. This is Charles’s second time running for provincial office.
John Deveau, also a hospital worker, who is seeking re-election in Yarmouth. John has been employed as a health care worker at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. Elected a member of the legislative assembly in 1998 he was opposition critic for Fisheries and Sport and Recreation. Re-offering in 1999 he lost narrowly by 62 votes.
Go to www.ns.ndp.ca for more information. Better yet, show these fellow CUPE members your support by sending them a cheque! They certainly would welcome it.