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Eagles soar over founding of National Aboriginal Council

Three eagles soared high above the Saskatchewan plain as about 50 members witnessed the founding of CUPE’s National Aboriginal Council this week.

CUPE aboriginal members came to Wanuskewin Heritage Park, near Saskatoon, to found a council. They came to find ways to overcome the barriers that have long stopped aboriginal workers from fully participating in Canadian society. And they came away with a renewed spirit to accomplish their goals.

We need to serve our aboriginal communities better,” National President Paul Moist told delegates who travelled from the four western provinces, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. “We will seek your direction on how CUPE can assist on issues like land claims, education, and employment.”

Jobs dominated the discussion along with the problems of racism and stereotyping. Members shared stories of how aboriginal workers had been frozen out of paid work. However, Saskatchewan has led the way in the fight against job discrimination. The province offers a four-hour workplace training program that helps dispel the myths about aboriginal peoples. More than 17,500 people have taken the training.

Another dominant topic was union organizing. “We need to start building some trust before we can expect aboriginal workers to join CUPE,” said Daria Ivanochko from CUPE National’s Organizing and Regional Services Department. “We can’t just walk through the door and say ‘join us’.”

British Columbia participants proudly described the advances they’ve made since founding their council two years ago. One such advance was a four-month ‘mapping’ project, funded by CUPE National, to show where more organizing is possible in aboriginal communities.

The gathering identified five top issues: youth awareness, organizing, under-representation in the workplace and in CUPE, aboriginal awareness training, and the formation of provincial aboriginal councils.

The interim council also chose two senators – Brian Barron of CUPE 500 (Winnipeg city workers) and Joanne Webb of CUPE 4800 (Hamilton health care workers). They will act as co-chairs until the council can be officially recognized by CUPE’s National Executive Board in June. The NEB meeting coincides with National Aboriginal Day on June 21.

The council will meet again in November in conjunction with CUPE’s National Human Rights Conference in Vancouver.

Hamilton, Edmonton demand national child care program

Edmonton and Hamilton have joined the growing list of municipalities fighting for a national child care program. The cities have endorsed resolutions to pressure the federal and provincial governments to honour the child care agreements they signed last year.

$100 per month for each child under the age of six is not sufficient to provide a quality child care experience.…Canada’s children deserve better,” Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Canada’s children deserve a place that will nurture their development, provide healthy, safe and stimulating learning environments, and encourage social development skills. On behalf of Edmonton City Council, I strongly urge you and your government to reconsider your decision on this very critical issue.

We ask you to support the preservation of the current early learning and child care agreements that exist between the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories.”

Air Transat flight attendants get new contract

Flight attendants with CUPE’s Air Transat component have voted 88 per cent to accept their new contract.

The new collective agreement promises a 16.5 per cent wage increase over its five-year term. Per diems will also go up and the employer has agreed to cover 100 per cent of the cost of employee uniforms.

And for the first time in the history of the Canadian airline industry, flight attendants will receive a bonus for working over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

The union also achieved satisfactory language on issues such as layoffs and rest time between flights.

CUPE represents 1,050 Air Transat flight attendants based in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Ontario school board workers reject tentative settlement

Educational and instructional assistants with the Thames Valley District School Board in Southern Ontario have rejected a settlement proposal in ratification votes, setting a new strike deadline of 12:01 am, May 11.

Our members felt the board’s offer did not go far enough to address the issue of having enough time to complete our work with students,” said CUPE National Representative Jennifer Kaufmann. “We have asked management to return to the negotiating table to try and work out an agreement that will be acceptable to members, and prevent a strike.”

CUPE 4222, unit C, represents 852 permanent and 311 casual assistants who provide care to special needs students in 186 schools in the city of London, and in the counties of Elgin, Oxford and Middlesex. The workers have been in a legal strike position since May 4.

Our members are standing up for what they believe in and trying to get more time to do their work,” Kaufmann said. “Management has downloaded extra duties without allowing enough work time, and our members feel they have little choice but to go on strike if the board doesn’t table an improved settlement offer.”

Prince Albert city workers support job action

City workers in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, voted 97 per cent in support of taking job action at a membership meeting this week.

CUPE 882 represents “inside” workers, including employees in administration, aquatics, concessions and playgrounds. The members have been trying to conclude a new agreement for more than two years.

In February, the union negotiating committee thought they had a tentative agreement to recommend to its members. But the employer pulled the offer and CUPE filed an unfair labour practice.

Bargaining is scheduled to resume on May 12.

Edmonton school workers call on government to cover board deficit

Deficits at Edmonton public schools and three other school districts are further evidence the provincial government is underfunding schools, says CUPE, the union representing about 3,000 school support workers at Edmonton public schools.

Edmonton public schools recently announced that it would run a $7-million deficit this year. Edmonton Catholic schools have a deficit of about $10 million. Other districts are also running deficits.

CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz is calling on the provincial government to increase school funding. “Some school districts are running operating deficits,” he said. “Others, like Calgary, have a $450-million maintenance deficit.

In times when the provincial government has surpluses in the $7-billion range, this kind of underfunding isn’t right.”

Licensed practical nurses celebrate Nursing Week in British Columbia

May 13 has been designated Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Day as part of Nursing Week activities kicked off May 8.

Across British Columbia, LPNs will be hosting information tables and talking to their colleagues about recent gains made during 2006 contract negotiations.

Significant advancements made at the bargaining table and during senior policy discussions early this spring have put LPNs on a new footing,” said Judy Darcy, Secretary-Business Manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), CUPE’s B.C. health care division.

New training and educational opportunities, input into shift scheduling, inclusion on professional practice councils, and new avenues of influence with senior health officials are some of the things we are celebrating during Nursing Week,” she said.

Darcy saluted LPNs for caring for British Columbians. “LPNs have an increasingly critical role in delivering quality, bedside care. Despite the many challenges they face on the job, a result of insufficient resources and understaffing, these nurses continue to show how important they are to meeting the health needs of patients and residents across the province.”

Pride in CUPE” course explores homophobia

Members of the CUPE Alberta executive, along with some staff and CUPE activists, recently took part in the “Pride in CUPE” course.

The course, taught by CUPE 3550’s Ian Crichton and CUPE 2669’s Gary Day, was aimed at building tolerance and understanding of the issues faced by gay, lesbian and trans CUPE members.

CUPE 2545 member Lorna Tollman said that for her, the reality of homophobia hit home a few years ago after she learned a gay man had been murdered in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Tollman, who works in the Fort McMurray school system, says she knows of at least two gay high school students who committed suicide.

During one exercise, students were asked to imagine they lived in a gay world, one in which they could not talk about their straight relationships, where their parents would not have contact with them because they were straight, and where promotional opportunities were denied to them because of their sexual orientation.