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Two CUPE members die in British Columbia mine incident

Paramedics Shawn Currier and Kim Weitzel were two of the four victims in this week’s tragic accident at a decommissioned mine in Kimberley, B.C.

CUPE 873 President, John Strohmaier and a team of Local Executive and Critical Incident Support workers are in Kimberley to provide support to the families of these brave paramedics, their members and their communities.

As Paramedics, we never know what the next call may bring, yet we will continue to put ourselves in harm’s way approximately 1400 times a day in British Columbia. Although we face tragic events on a daily basis, none of us can ever be prepared to answer the call of a fallen sister or brother”, Brother Strohmaier in a statement to his members. (www.apbc.ca)

The local will not be commenting at this time on the details of the accident; however, CUPE 873’s Safety Officer will be involved in the ongoing investigation.

CUPE National President Paul Moist and National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux have sent a condolence message on behalf of all members.

We were devastated to learn of the tragic deaths of paramedics Shawn Currier and Kim Weitzel, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while trying to save others.

On behalf of the entire membership of our union, we extend our condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of these two dedicated professionals.“

Canadian unions protest Aussie PM visit

Visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard received a less than warm welcome today in Ottawa from Canadian trade unionists upset at his government’s regressive new labour laws.

Howard was in Ottawa to address Parliament. But the Canadian Labour Congress organized a rally on Parliament Hill to show solidarity with the Australian labour movement, which is fighting Australia’s controversial new “Work Choices” legislation.

The national “industrial relations” reforms came into effect at the end of March, despite bitter opposition by unions, left-leaning politicians and many state and territory governments and low support among the Australian public. According to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the reforms erode workers’ rights and reduce the ability of unions to bargain collectively.

Among other things, the legislation abolishes protection from unfair dismissal for 4 million Australian workers employed in companies with less than 101 staff. It allows employers to put workers on to individual contracts that cut pay and reduce employment conditions to five minimum standards. It also restricts industrial action and forbids workplace health and safety training by unions.

CUPE National President Paul Moist joined about 200 people at the rally. “We stand in solidarity with our sister unions in Australia to reject this anti-worker legislation,” Moist told the crowd.

The John Howard government is no friend of working people, and if Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a friend of John Howard’s he’s no friend of Canadian workers,” added CLC Executive Vice-President Barbara Byers.

Ed Cashman, Regional Executive Vice-President for the National Capital Region of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and New Democrat member of Parliament Peggy Nash also spoke at the rally.

MPs must reject Canada Health Act report

This year’s annual report to Parliament on the Canada Health Act (CHA) is once again missing data on for-profit health services and must be rejected by MPs.

Once again, the CHA annual report to Parliament is full of holes and MPs must simply reject it,” said National President Paul Moist. “Most provinces aren’t reporting on the scope of for-profit health services, and the federal government is just sitting back and doing nothing about it.”

The report lists fines for Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. However, there are no fines for Quebec, even though private clinics are growing rapidly in that province. In fact, the report is completely blank on the subject of private clinics in Quebec, as well as in Alberta and Ontario.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba are the only provinces to provide all the requested information on for-profit health services. Saskatchewan reported none, while Manitoba listed one private clinic, the number of services it provided and how much money was spent there. Even where the number of private clinics is documented, the report fails to keep track of services. The report documents a sharp rise in the number of private, for-profit surgical facilities in B.C., from one in 2000 to 18 in 2005, but gives no further information on the number of services provided there or the amount of money spent.

The federal government has an obligation to ensure that the principles of the CHA are upheld beyond just monitoring the extra billing and user fees criteria, Moist said. In 2004, a federal court judge rejected a court challenge brought by CUPE and other groups to force the Minister of Health to monitor and enforce the CHA, ruling that proper monitoring was up to Parliament.

MPs must stand up and demand that the federal government stop ignoring the CHA,” said Moist. “They can start by rejecting this year’s report.”

CUPE BC, HEU win CALM Awards

Public Employee, CUPE BC’s flagship publication, was named “Best overall publication produced by staff” at this year’s Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM) Awards.

The award, announced last week during CALM’s annual conference, went to the union publication judged to have the best combination of writing, editing, layout and design.

In another category, CUPE’s British Columbia health services division, the Hospital Employees’ Union, won the best website award (staff) for its 2005 provincial election site, “Deceive BC”.

The annual CALM Awards recognize outstanding achievement in union communications by member organizations in both the public and private sector across Canada.

This year’s conference, which featured workshops and plenaries for union communicators from across the country, was in Winnipeg.

Alberta representative wins Jim Shewchuk Award

John Malthouse, a CUPE national representative in Alberta, is the 2006 recipient of the Jim Shewchuk Award for union and community activism.

The award was established in 1984 by the Edmonton and District Labour Council (EDLC) and United Way of the Alberta Capital Region. It is awarded annually to an Edmonton area union member for community, union and charitable involvement. It is named in honour of Jim Shewchuk, a member of the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway, Transport and General Workers Union and past president of the EDLC.

Malthouse, who recently announced his intention to retire by the end of the year, was presented with the award for his lifetime of service to the labour movement and his community. In addition to negotiating hundreds of collective agreements, Malthouse has worked on members’ cases with the Workers’ Compensation Board and on health and safety, disability and employment insurance concerns. He also serves on the board of the Alberta WCB.

Malthouse is also active in his community. He has worked to rejuvenate a local park, serves on the community league board and participates in campaigns to reduce crime.

Two settlements for Lorraine workers

In Lorraine, Quebec, outside workers (CUPE 2129) and inside workers (CUPE 2134) have recently signed new collective agreements. The four-year contracts, which expire in 2007, include raises of 2.5 per cent a year. The lengthy negotiations also resulted in improvements for employees with casual or contingent job status and wage increases for library workers, among other things

CUPE 79 holds information “picket-nic”

CUPE 79, representing the service unit and the nurses and paramedical unit at Toronto’s Bridgepoint Hospital (Gerrard and Broadview), held an information picket/picnic this week to tell people how the two units have been without a contract since 2004.

We have been trying to get acceptable collective agreements for both our units at Bridgepoint for some time,” said CUPE 79 President Ann Dembinski. “But management is not serious about achieving a deal and we have asked the Ministry of Labour for a conciliator. Our members deserve strong contracts that do not demand the significant concessions management is seeking.”

The members were joined by activists, other unions, and politicians, including Ontario New Democrat Leader Howard Hampton and NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, in whose riding Bridgepoint is located.

CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan, Toronto City Councillor Janet Davis and representatives of the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Toronto Professional Firefighters’ Association, the Carpenters’ Union, the Toronto Central Ontario Building Trades Council, CUPE 1, CUPE 4400, the Ontario Health Coalition and the United Steel Workers also lent their support.