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Our voices rising: National Human Rights Conference

Time is running out to register for CUPE’s historic first National Human Rights Conference. The registration deadline is October 27. Don’t miss out on the chance to hear inspiring speakers, expand your knowledge at challenging workshops and network with like-minded human rights and equality activists from across the country, all in beautiful Vancouver, B.C.

CUPE is proud of the exciting lineup of keynote speakers it has assembled. One of them is Itrath Syed, a passionate, articulate young social justice activist who ran as the New Democrat candidate in Richmond, B.C., in the last federal election. Itrath is known in the province and nationally for her involvement in the grassroots anti-war and anti-violence movements and for her commitment to women’s issues.

Come hear Itrath and others, such as human and civil rights lawyers Anita Braha and Kiké Roach and respected University of Toronto sociology professor Dr. Sherene Razack, author of several books on racism and violence.

Visit www.cupe.ca or contact equality@cupe.ca for a complete agenda and registration information.

CUPE mourning four losses

It’s been a hard week for CUPE. In the space of just a few days, we learned of the deaths of a Hydro-Quebec member, a national servicing representative and the Quebec regional director. On October 12, we were shocked to hear of the sudden death of Sister Beverly Smale, a national servicing representative for the Ottawa Area Office. She was 47.

On October 13, a 28-year-old member of CUPE Local 957 died while working on a turbine at a Hydro-Quebec facility in Rouyn-Noranda. A contractor also died in the accident. The union is working quickly to shed light on the tragedy.

Also on October 13, 17-year-old Amanda Emily Anderson, a lifeguard at the SEAPRC Leisure Centre in Sooke, B.C., and a member of CUPE Local 1978, was tragically killed in a car accident.

On October 15, Sister Lucie Richard lost her battle with cancer. Richard was on medical leave from her job as Quebec regional director. She was 56.

National President Paul Moist and National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux express their heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of these four members of CUPE’s family.

University conference gets straight As

Last week, 200 delegates representing more than 70,000 CUPE university workers from across Canada met in Montreal to discuss pressing issues. It was the first national university sector meeting organized by the union.

French student leader Bruno Julliard was a keynote speaker, as were Elaine Bernard of Harvard University and Erika Shaker of the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives.

Bargaining and organizing and the threat of privatization were some of the topics debated and discussed over the three-day conference. Delegates made recommendations regarding coordinated bargaining and organizing. CUPE will be following up on some of these at our national convention in October 2007.

CUPE joins move to charge North Carolina under NAFTA Labour Rules

CUPE has joined more than two dozen labour organizations from Canada, the United States and Mexico, together representing several million workers, in filing a charge against the U.S. under the North American Agreement for Labour Cooperation (NAALC), the labour side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The complaint charges that North Carolina and the United States are violating NAALC and international law, by denying 650,000 North Carolina public employees the right to engage in collective bargaining.

Frustration with the lack of collective bargaining and effective voice on the job has led to increasing protests by North Carolina public workers. The most recent instance was a strike by Raleigh sanitation workers in September.

Happy Birthday, Tommy!

CUPE joined health care activists and supporters of Canada’s public health system to celebrate the birthday of Tommy Douglas, the father of medicare, on October 20.

To highlight the threat posed by creeping privatization of our health care system, Halifax activists served slices from a giant “two-tiered” birthday cake to the public in front of Halifax’s only private MRI clinic.

CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador held a birthday party for Tommy Douglas starting at 6:30 am on Signal Hill in St. John’s. There were two cakes; slices of one cake were given away for free, while the second cake – symbolic of privatization – was sold to the public.

CUPE’s Prince Edward Island division hosted public parties at five P.E.I. hospitals, including the Queen Elizabeth in Charlottetown. National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux attended.

Celebrations were also held in Douglas’ home province of Saskatchewan, birthplace of medicare. In Regina, National President Paul Moist joined 200 CUPE members in Victoria Park to commemorate Tommy’s birthday, while CUPE Saskatchewan had a cake.

More events took place in B.C. and elsewhere.

New members’ bill for national child care

A New Democrat-sponsored private member’s bill that moves child care from patchwork to program needs our members’ support.

Bill C303, the Early Learning and Child Care Act, will help build child care through a law like the Canada Health Act. The bill directs federal funds to high-quality programs that are universal, accessible and accountable.

Earlier this year, 100,000 Canadians signed an open letter supporting a national child care program.

Aboriginal members meet to make a difference

For 79 union members attending CUPE BC’s second aboriginal gathering last weekend, the conference slogan couldn’t have been more appropriate.

Creating the Inner Warrior – Empowering our Aboriginal Members” marked the first time since February 2004 that First Nations and Métis CUPE members from B.C. had met in one place to share their experiences and workplace challenges.

The agenda included water issues, aboriginal law, workplace rights, community activism and ideas to raise the aboriginal profile in CUPE locals.

CUPE is also celebrating Women’s History Month – a national initiative established by the Government of Canada in 1992. This year’s theme, “Aboriginal Women: The Journey Forward,” dovetailed nicely with the gathering.

Focus on health and safety

Health and safety was the hot topic at two CUPE conferences last week.

A two-day health and safety/injured workers conference in Sudbury, Ontario, drew more than 250 activists from CUPE locals across Ontario. From October 13-15, delegates attended workshops, panel discussions, and town hall forums with community and government experts. Participants also drafted a regulation on violence in the workplace, which is currently under review.

That same weekend, around 75 Alberta members gathered in Red Deer for the “Protecting our Future” health and safety conference. A special emphasis was placed on young workers, who are more likely to be injured on the job.

Arbitration board to hear contracting-out grievance

An arbitration board has begun hearings to determine if the city of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and the Art Hauser Centre board violated the collective agreement when they contracted out the concession operation at the civic centre.

More than 20 civic workers, members of CUPE Local 882, lost their jobs last year when the employer gave the concession contract to the Optimist Club. The concession had generated more than $50,000 annually in net revenues when it was run by the city.

The union filed a grievance in September 2005. CUPE wants the arbitration board to order the employer to maintain the concession as a civic operation and reinstate the CUPE members to their former positions, with compensation for lost wages and benefits.

McMaster TAs deliver strong strike mandate as talks resume

Teaching and research assistants (TAs and RAs) at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, voted more than 81 per cent in favour of strike action if McMaster’s administration fails to move towards a fair contract settlement. Both parties headed back to the bargaining table this week.

CUPE Local 3906, representing more than 2,000 TAs and RAs, is trying to avert a lockout or strike, which could come as soon as October 23. The main issues are overwork, job security and protection from tuition fee increases – something already achieved at other Ontario universities.

Parry Sound long-term care workers join CUPE

More than 100 workers at Belvedere Heights Home for the Aged in Parry Sound, Ontario, voted overwhelmingly last week to join CUPE. The workers chose CUPE over the Canadian Health Care Workers Union, which had represented them in the past, in a vote held October 12.