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Haitian union office to be rebuilt with help from Canadian labour groups

On January 11, a year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Canadian public sector unions announced that they will provide financial and technical assistance to rebuild the headquarters of an important Haitian labour organization. The money is directed specifically to rebuilding the office of the Confédération des travailleurs et des travailleuses des secteurs public et privé (CTSP) in Port-au-Prince. Plans for the new building have already been approved and construction will begin in the spring.

The CTSP represents over 8,000 workers, particularly in the areas of health, education, electricity and municipal services. Currently, the CTSP is operating under a 10-by-12-foot tent. CUPE national secretary-treasurer Claude Généreux notes as a prime example of the difficulties and delays in the reconstruction the fact that less than five per cent of the rubble from the last year’s earthquake has been removed.

The unions involved in this project include CUPE, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec (SFPQ) and the Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS). These unions have pledged a $50,000 contribution, which represents the estimated project costs.

Make your workplace bottled water free

On March 10, communities across Canada will be mobilizing to ban the bottle and reclaim public water. This date marks the second annual Bottled Water Free Day. It’s increasingly difficult to access public drinking water in Canadian workplaces.  Public fountains aren’t being maintained – or installed in new buildings. And bottled water corporations are moving in to corner the market, replacing public infrastructure with private vending machines.

As leaders in the fight against water privatization CUPE is working with the Canadian Federation of Students, the Sierra Youth Coalition, Development & Peace and the Polaris Institute to promote Bottled Water Free Day. This year CUPE and our partner organizations are pushing hard to make university and college campuses and municipal workplaces bottled water free. Already 81 municipalities and ten university and college campuses have taken action toward being bottled water free.

Get involved in Bottled Water Free Day by: encouraging members, friends and colleagues to sign the pledge; organizing an event; and contacting your city councillors, school board trustees and university/college presidents and ask them to make the Bottled Water Free Day Pledge. For more information, go to: www.bottledwaterfreeday.ca.

Surrey partners with unionized city staff to make communities safer

The City of Surrey is the latest community to partner with CUPE’s successful “City Watch” program that brings the eyes and ears of civic workers to fight and reduce crime and increase public safety, CUPE BC general vice-president Cindy McQueen said on January 12. City Watch is a CUPE initiative, which combines the efforts of City of Surrey staff, CUPE Local 402, and the Surrey RCMP to prevent and reduce crime by encouraging municipal employees to be alert to suspicious and criminal activity they may witness on the job.

Other B.C. communities that have introduced the “City Watch” program include New Westminster, Victoria, Burnaby, Kamloops, Ladysmith, North Vancouver and Delta. Additional announcements are expected in the coming months.

No justification for contracting out Regina CT scans

Why is the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region contracting out CT scans when wait times are dropping and the region’s existing CT scanners are underutilized? Those are just two questions the CUPE Health Care Council wants answered after learning the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region signed a multi-year deal with another private clinic to provide CT services for the region.

Last June, the health region claimed the three CT scanners operating in Regina’s hospitals were running at “maximum capacity seven days a week.” In a news release on January 12, the health region noted the three CT scanners were “available” 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

The truth is Regina’s three hospital CT scanners only operate at full capacity during regular business hours from Monday to Friday. Two CT scanners operate in the evening and on weekends, but only on an emergency basis. The third sits idle. The union also questioned why the health region signed a 32-month contract with Radiology Associates of Regina to perform an additional 42,500 CT scans when CT wait list numbers are declining. For more information, visit the Keep Healthcare Public Website at: http://keephealthcarepublic.ca/.

CUPE Nova Scotia president urges education minister to clarify proposed funding cuts

The president of CUPE Nova Scotia, Danny Cavanagh, says the new minister of education should clarify what her department’s intentions are with regard to proposed funding cuts. CUPE School Board Co-ordinator Kathy MacLeod says, “Our school board locals will be getting together on January 22 in Truro to discuss and prepare to take action on any potential government cuts to school boards.”

Both Cavanagh and MacLeod have written both the former minister and the new minister asking them to clarify exactly what it is they have asked the school boards to do and what impact this might have on classrooms and frontline services. Wilfridine Crowdis, who speaks on behalf of CUPE’s School Board Council of Unions (NSSBCU), says, “As the largest school board union in the country - and one with a proud track record of defending public education – CUPE will do everything possible to ensure that the services our members provide in the school board sector will be protected.

Justice for José! CUPE supports campaign to stop unjust deportation of 13-year B.C. resident

CUPE is encouraging members to show their support for José Figueroa, a father of three Canadian-born children and thirteen-year resident of B.C., who is facing deportation by the Canadian government. Figueroa was deemed inadmissible by the Immigration and Refugee Board based on recommendations from the Ministry of Public Safety, which mistakenly recognize the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) as a terrorist organization.

Twenty years ago, as a student, Figueroa joined the organization—which has since become the democratically elected governing party of El Salvador—to protest the brutal, undemocratic, military dictatorship of El Salvador. The government of the time used death squads to silence opposition.

Organizers of WE ARE JOSE, a campaign to support Figueroa, are calling on the Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews to “respond to the demand to grant José an exemption by January 16 declaring him no threat to national security, in honour of [the anniversary of] the Salvadorean Peace Agreement.”

Events to show support for Figueroa have been scheduled nation-wide on the date as well. For event details, go to: http://wearejose.wordpress.com/.

Community supports library workers in Toronto

At a packed library board meeting in Toronto on January 6, community supporters and politicians, along with CUPE Local 4948 president Maureen O’Reilly, made deputations in support of maintaining library services at their current levels and resisting cuts demanded by the administration of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

The number one issue CUPE is concerned about is the chronic understaffing of the Toronto Public Library,” said Sister O’Reilly. “Library staff cuts mean fewer librarians to read stories to the children in our community, fewer library workers to help unemployed residents in their search for work, and less access for people with no other way to access computer technology, and the list goes on.

Presentations were also made by former Toronto Mayor John Sewell and former library board member and city councillor Adam Vaughan, as well as many community supporters. The outpouring of public support resulted in a compromise budget proposal put forward by city councillor Janet Davis, which would prevent the closure of the Urban Affairs library and minimize staff cuts.

CUPE bargaining on several fronts in Cape Breton long-term care sector

The newest local in Cape Breton, CUPE 5032 representing 45 employees at St. Anne Community and Nursing Care Centre in Arichat, has just received its certification order from the Labour Board and look forward to bargaining their first contract with this employer. Local 4965, representing 40 employees at Celtic Court in Sydney, has just ratified its first contract (giving them wage parity with their counterparts across the province) and has entered into the Health Association NS Pension Plan.

On a much less optimistic note, bargaining for Local 3630 – employees of Port Hawkesbury Nursing Home – is not going well up to this point. “So far this employer has not tabled the monetary settlement negotiated by CUPE provincially. They have also taken an unfair and unjustifiable position on the issue of a job posting which has serious implications for all employees. As a result of these two items, employees have taken a strike vote and have voted strongly in favour of job action if we cannot resolve these outstanding issues,” explains John Evans, CUPE national representative.

The conciliator with the Department of Labour will be filing his report to the minister this week, which will put us in a legal position by month’s end.

University of Windsor workers fight concession demands with strike vote

Frustrated by the slow pace of contract negotiations, and demands for concessions by the University of Windsor administration, CUPE Local 1393 held a strike vote on January 13.

The University administration is spending two to three times more money per hour, by using outside contractors, instead of creating more critical full time jobs, needed to serve an increasing student population on a growing campus,” said Aldo DiCarlo, president of Local 1393. “Because of the University administration’s failure to understand its obligations arising out of the terms of the last collective agreement, it is costing the university millions of dollars to fight over 200 outstanding grievances, instead of sitting down with us to find solutions. At the same time, they continue to increase student tuitions and reduce services to students and staff.” 

CUPE reaches new contract with Pictou County Shared Services Authority

CUPE Local 281 has a new contract with the Pictou County Shared Services Authority (PCSSA). Highlights of the deal include wage increases of 3 per cent on April 1, 2009, 3 per cent April 1, 2010, 2.5 per cent on April 1, 2011 and 2.5 per cent on April 1, 2012.

PCSSA Chairman Mayor Barrie MacMillan of New Glasgow stated, “There were several important improvements to the Local 281 contract and the Authority is pleased to have the new contract in place with the employees. The negotiations went very smooth and both sides acted in a respectful and professional manner throughout the process.”

Lévis blue-collar workers put strike on the back burner

The one-day strike expected on January 14 by Lévis blue-collar workers has been called off, at least for now. Following an entire week of talks, union negotiators feel enough progress has been made to justify the change of heart. After all, their aim is to keep the negotiation climate positive. Both parties hope to reach a tentative agreement by February 11.

The CUPE Local 2334 agreement expired on December 31, 2007. At a general assembly in November of 2009, the unionized members voted 99 per cent in favour of giving their negotiating committee a strike mandate.


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