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CUPE in solidarity with aboriginal people

On June 21, National Aboriginal Day, CUPE celebrated the heritage, cultures and contributions of our First Nations, Inuit, Métis and other Aboriginal Peoples, and called on members to remember the struggles and achievements of Canada’s aboriginals. In a statement issued on the day, CUPE said “We renew our commitment to aboriginal representation in all workplaces, all levels of employment and union decision-making”.

The statement also said “We continue our fight for equality, justice, full inclusion, the right to self-government and respect for treaties and other rights. We challenge racist stereotypes and myths. We strengthen our commitment to partnership agreements. We advocate for safe drinking water and stopping the spread of public private partnerships on reserves.”

CUPE’s colourful new aboriginal poster shows various symbols significant to aboriginal cultures. It reads, “We embrace diversity as part of our way of ensuring harmony with each other and with Mother Earth”.

The poster can be seen at cupe.ca/aboriginal. Request free copies from the equality branch at aboriginal@cupe.ca.

Moist, NEB support CUPW campaign; 20 postal workers arrested

Magnifying glasses in hand, members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) climbed over police barricades outside Canada Post headquarters this week to search for its “strategic planning” documents.

CUPE National President Paul Moist was on hand to support the postal workers. He called on Canada Post President Moya Greene to publicly release all relevant documents.

The civil disobedience action was dubbed “Operation Transparency” and was led by CUPW President Deborah Bourque. About 20 postal workers defied Canada Post and police requests to stay away from the Ottawa headquarters. All were arrested for trespassing and later released.

CUPW claims the Crown corporation is hiding documents detailing future plant closures and job cuts. Canada Post has already announced plans to close a Québec City mail sorting plant without consulting workers. The union is fighting for transparency, fairness and, at minimum, a chance to be consulted in any decision-making.

Canada Post is a public service and the public has a right to know the future of postal services,” Moist said to a cheering crowd of about 250 people. “The postal workers are here to defend the public post office, and CUPE supports them.”

In addition, CUPE’s National Executive Board endorsed the campaign in a resolution this week that says in part “the future of the public postal service should be in the hands of the public”. Go to cupe.ca for the full resolution.

Reducing flight attendant numbers will compromise passenger safety

The federal transport committee needs to stop the proposed changes to the regulations that would allow airlines to reduce the number of flight attendants on certain aircraft, CUPE said this week.

The formula for flight attendants in Canada is one attendant to every 40 seats. The airlines want that changed to one in 50 seats, putting them in line with airlines in the United States. Transport Canada killed a similar proposal five years ago.

Transport Canada killed that proposal then because it would have compromised the safety of the traveling public,” noted Pamela Sachs, President of CUPE’s Air Canada Component, representing 8,750 cabin personnel.

Transport Canada has not been as open as it must be when issues of safety are concerned,” added Richard Balnis, Senior Researcher on airline issues at CUPE. “Officials have withheld key documents and have not stood up for safety. We hope the standing committee will step in to ensure that all the information on this issue is put on the table so it can make an informed decision on behalf of Canadians.”

Whistler flushes wastewater P3

The council of the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has voted against going to referendum on a proposed public private partnership (P3) for a wastewater treatment plant upgrade, ending a proposal that would have seen the plant operation privatized.

A Whistler Water Watch community coalition that included CUPE Local 2010 worked tirelessly to convince council to maintain conventional public operation of wastewater treatment. Whistler Water Watch was active in the local public consultation process, called the alternative approval process.

The two ingredients to success were the community coalition mounting an incredible campaign and the RMOW council listening to its community,” CUPE Local 2010 President Pete Davidson said.

CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill congratulated Whistler Water Watch on a successful campaign. “It’s a great example of citizen action making a difference,” he said. “When communities come together to protect their public services, including wastewater treatment, local councils listen.”

Because the proposed partnership agreement was to last longer than five years, the municipality was required by the community charter to consult electors.

Under the process, a minimum of 892 residents (10 per cent of Whistler’s electors) had to complete response forms within 30 days ending June 12 before the municipality could consider reviewing the P3 plan. If the minimum number of people signed the forms, council could then decide to either scrap the P3 plan or hold a referendum on the issue.

On June 6, Whistler Water Watch announced that it had gathered more than 1,400 signed forms. By the deadline, 1,848 forms had been collected – more than double the minimum requirement.

At its June 19 meeting, council voted five to two not to take the issue to a referendum, and requested that RMOW staff proceed with a design-build (traditional) approach for Whistler’s wastewater treatment plant.

CUPE ads urge no more Edmonton school custodial staff cuts

As students in Edmonton’s public schools begin final exams and are looking forward to graduation ceremonies, CUPE Local 474 has launched a print ad campaign protesting custodial job cuts.

The ads emphasize the well-researched fact that clean schools affect student achievement,” said local President Doug Luellman. They also urge the public to contact public school board trustees and tell them to stop cuts to custodial staff.

The union took action after the board ordered a 10 per cent cut to staff across all district schools at a public meeting this week. “Schools have had a steady decline in custodial staff for over a decade,” Luellman said. “This just adds insult to injury.”

The district has not publicly lobbied the government for funding, he said, adding that he wants the public to pressure the trustees to reinstate custodial staff.

Other staff groups in the district have all seen increased hiring over the past decade, including a massive increase in administration positions,” he said. “Custodial is the only staff group that has been cut over and over.”

The ads will be running in local daily and weekly newspapers this week.

Norwich, Ontario, municipal workers enter conciliation talks

Town of Norwich municipal workers have asked an Ontario provincial conciliator to assist negotiations with their employer. They want to avoid a strike over concession demands by management negotiators.

Our members will not accept concessions,” said Mike Dunn, spokesperson for CUPE Local 1589.01. “Management must show respect for workers and come to conciliation to seriously address workers’ issues.” Outstanding issues include benefits and seniority.

The 14 county road and arena workers recently voted 92 per cent to prepare for strike action if a negotiated deal is not reached. Their last contract expired March 31, 2006. Conciliation talks are scheduled for June 22.

Our members work hard for the community and we will do our best to achieve a negotiated settlement without a strike,” said Dunn. “But management must come to conciliation talks willing to achieve a contract.”

Big wage settlement for former AUPE members

A group of employees who recently left the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) for CUPE have learned that their new union gets a better deal for its members.

About 80 employees of the Grande Prairie Care Centre left AUPE two years ago after members became frustrated with poor service and contract provisions.

This week, they ratified a contract negotiated by CUPE that gives them wage increases of between 15-21 per cent in the first year, followed by 3 per cent increases in the second year. The agreement also improves night shift and weekend wages, increases the number of hours in which these premium wages apply, and increases overtime pay.

Not only is this wage increase a huge improvement over what AUPE negotiated for these employees, it sets a bar that other employees in the long-term care sector can strive for,” said CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz.

Lanovaz noted that Alberta’s Auditor General has said low wages in the sector are contributing to poor conditions in seniors’ homes.

We have had some success in convincing employers that it is in everyone’s interest to have happy, well-paid employees looking after Alberta seniors,” said Lanovaz. “CUPE has been able to negotiate some of the first pension plans ever for this sector, and contracts like the one at Grande Prairie go a long way to addressing the wage issues raised by the Auditor General.”