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Newmarket librarians hold info picket over stalled talks

CUPE 905 members from the Newmarket Public Library held an information picket on January 4, to let their patrons know about the sad state of their negotiations. Handing out a leaflet entitled “We’re not asking for the moon”; members warned the public of a pending strike. They highlighted issues including employer efforts to replace part-time workers with volunteers, unfair sick leave provisions, vacation time between full-time and part-time workers, and the high number of 14 non-union/management staff managing roughly 34 unionized staff.

A strike deadline has been set for January 12, 12:01 am, and Local 905 is asking library clients and friends to call the new CEO, to voice their concerns, as well as the mayor.

Training for CUPE Pension Trustees to be held in Vancouver

Registeration is now open for training sessions for union pension fund trustees and pension plan advisory committee members to be held March 27 to April 1, 2011 at the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver. For the first time, CUPE will also offer training that meets the specific needs of committee members for defined contribution plans. For more information and to download the application, go to: http://cupe.ca/pensions/training-pension-trustees-held.

Steele right to speak out on Alberta’s CPP stance - CUPE Nova Scotia

The president of CUPE Nova Scotia, Danny Cavanagh, is applauding Finance Minister Graham Steele and the premier’s criticism of Alberta’s stance on reform of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

Cavanagh says, “It is great to see our province taking a strong stand on this issue because Canadians across the country have said in poll after poll that we need to fix our country’s retirement security system. “This really isn’t about politics as much as it’s about people getting a decent retirement income from a system that works really well but needs to be modernized and brought into the 21st century. If anyone is playing politics, it’s Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty who has flip-flopped on CPP reform because he doesn’t want to offend Stephen Harper’s base in Alberta.”

As of July 2010, there were just over 163,000 Nova Scotians receiving retirement benefits. On average their current CPP pension amounts to $477 monthly, which is lower than the average Canadian amount of $502 monthly. Cavanagh says that if the replacement rate was increased to 50 per cent instead of the current 25 per cent - which is what CUPE and the Canadian Labour Congress have been pushing for - working people would over time be entitled to receive up to $1,868.33 monthly.

Coalition expert to deliver keynote speech at municipal meeting

Renowned Australian activist and author Amanda Tattersall will be the keynote speaker at CUPE’s upcoming National Municipal Sector Meeting in February.  Tattersall is the director of the Sydney Alliance and author of Power in Coalition.

Her book Power in Coalition features a case study of the Ontario Health Coalition as well as coalitions for public education in Sydney and living wages in Chicago. Don’t miss out on your chance to hear Amanda Tattersall and other inspirational speakers and panellists and fellow CUPE members. For more information, go to: http://cupe.ca/municipalities/coalition-expert-deliver-keynote-speech.

CUPE earns coverage in Le Monde diplomatique

A report on how the Canada-European Union trade talks will put Canada’s public water up for sale has made news in Europe. The prestigious Le Monde diplomatique, a monthly news magazine published in France, covered the release of the report in December. The report “Public Water for Sale: How Canada will privatize our public water systems”, published by CUPE and the Council of Canadians, warns that public water in Canada will be lost unless the provinces and territories take immediate steps to remove water from the scope of the proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA.

Download the full article at: http://cupe.ca/trade/earns-coverage-le-monde-diplomatique.

Poll finds strong support for raising royalty rates and minimum wage in Saskatchewan

The majority of Saskatchewan residents want the provincial government to increase royalty rates on our natural resources and raise the minimum wage so more people benefit from the economic boom, according to a new Viewpoints Research poll. The poll, commissioned by CUPE Saskatchewan, surveyed 602 residents across the province from December 6-16, 2010.

According to the poll, four out of five respondents (79.1 per cent) believe resource companies should pay higher royalty rates if they move head office jobs out of the province, while 66.9 per cent think the province should raise the royalty rates on potash, oil and other natural resources so Saskatchewan people receive more benefits.

CUPE Saskatchewan president Tom Graham says the City of Regina’s decision in December 2010, to give Mosaic Potash Corporation a $1.6 million tax break over five years is a case in point. “You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with a pulse who thinks this is a wise use of taxpayers’ money.” However, he says, “the poll found strong public support for giving low-income people a break.” For example, 71.9 per cent of respondents want the government to raise the minimum wage, which has been stuck at $9.25 for two years.

Regina union members step up to support pension plan

CUPE and other groups representing employees in the Regina Civic Pension Plan sent a strong message to City Council when they voted to support a contribution rate increase. At last month’s meeting, 12 of the 15 of the unions and associations in attendance voted to accept the rate increase. The Regina Civic Pension Plan, like many defined benefit plans across the country, is facing a serious funding shortfall due in large part to the financial crisis in 2008 and reduced expectations for investment returns.

The contribution increases, recommended by the plan’s actuary, will see rates rise to 12.38 per cent of earnings for both employees and employers up to the Yearly Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) and 18.34 per cent on earnings above the YMPE. Although the employers are complaining the required rate increases are “an unacceptable burden,” the civic unions suggest City Council needs to view the increase as an investment in the civic workforce.

CUPE stands united with locked out Steelworkers

CUPE National President Paul Moist, CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn and several dozen CUPE members joined locked out Steelworkers on their Hamilton picket line this week. Over 900 members of USWA Local 1005 have been locked out for over two months. Last month, CUPE National Executive Board passed a resolution to provide moral and financial support to USWA Local 1005, who have been locked out by the U.S. Steel Canada Group since November 7, 2010. The resolution calls for a $10,000 donation to the Steelworkers strike fund.

The American-owned U.S. Steel Canada Group locked out USWA Local 1005 after refusing to agree to pension changes. U.S. Steel wants to have all new hires enroll in a defined contributions pension plan rather than the current defined benefits plan. It also wants to remove indexing for all current and future retirees under the existing defined benefits pension.

Moist also blasted the federal government for its part in the pension battle, specifically, for allowing U.S. Steel to purchase the Hamilton works from Stelco in 2007. “The way U.S. Steel is treating its workers shows the Investment Canada Act – the federal legislation meant to scrutinize foreign takeovers – is clearly not protecting Canadian workers.” Moist is encouraging CUPE locals to offer financial and picket line support to USWA Local 1005, and is asking CUPE members to show their support at an upcoming rally being planned for January 29, 2011 at Hamilton’s City Hall.

Poll shows Saskatchewan residents want public solutions to health care wait lists

Judging by a new public opinion survey, the vast majority of Saskatchewan residents share a common wish for our health care system in 2011. They want to see the Saskatchewan government invest in public solutions to surgical wait times, not private clinics.

According to the poll, 60.4 per cent of those surveyed want the Saskatchewan government to reduce surgical wait times by investing in the public hospital system; while only 24.2 per cent support the government’s decision to use private-for-profit surgical clinics. The Viewpoints Research poll, commissioned by CUPE Saskatchewan, surveyed 602 residents across the province from December 6-16.

The poll also found most respondents are critical of the government’s decision to postpone construction of a new outpatient surgical clinic in Regina. Originally announced by the NDP government in 2007, the $14 million public day surgery centre was supposed to be operational by 2010. But last year the SaskParty government postponed funding for the project. Instead, the government spent $5.5 million in payments to private surgical clinics.

Tentative agreement reached for B.C. health science professionals

After more than nine months of bargaining, a tentative agreement was reached on December 22, 2010, between the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association and Health Employers Association of BC. CUPE represents over 500 members in this bargaining association, represented by CUPE Locals 15, 1978 and 4816.

This agreement was negotiated under the B.C. Liberal government’s Public Sector Employers’ Council “net zero” Bargaining Mandate 2010, which prohibited contracts negotiated within the public sector to have any net increases in total compensation costs and required compensation trade-offs, essentially using the elimination of existing provisions in a contract to fund any improvements in it.

Frank De Waard, CUPE bargaining committee representative and president of CUPE Local 4816, said the agreement was reached at too high a cost for CUPE members. “This agreement may feature some improvements, but at the cost of a vacation day and the suspension of the “general supervision” definition, which means that many of our members who are currently recognized for working without general supervision will have their wages frozen and new employees will be hired at a lower pay.”

A full information package will be distributed to members and posted on the CUPE BC Health Sector web page for members in January 2011. In addition, each CUPE local will hold ratification meetings for members in late January and early February. For more details, go to:


Colombia must end violence against rights activists

In a letter to President Santos and Vice President Garzón, national president Paul Moist called on the Colombian government to protect trade unionists and human rights activists who have received death threats as part of a well-documented campaign of intimidation.

Moist said, “We are very concerned that once again, individuals associated with our long standing partners at the Association for Research and Social Action (NOMADESC) and the University Workers’ Union, Cali Section (SINTRAUNICOL) have received death threats. Threats were received between December 11 and 14 and are part of a well-documented campaign of intimidation. Read the letter at: http://cupe.ca/global-justice/colombia-violence-rights-activists.

CUPE to keep up pressure for CPP improvements

CUPE will continue working with the Canadian Labour Congress to hold the Harper government to its promise to improve CPP benefits, says national president Paul Moist. In the aftermath of the December 20 meeting of federal and provincial finance ministers, Moist condemned the double dealing of Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Stalling CPP improvements in favour of a private pooled pension scheme is bad for Canadians, but great for banks, insurance companies and the mutual fund industry,” says Moist. “Flaherty’s pooled registered pension plan fails to address the real needs of Canadians not able to save for retirement. It doesn’t even require employers to make any contributions and fulfill their responsibility to help fund the retirement needs of their workers.

Take action. Tell Jim Flaherty that an improved CPP is the best option for retirement security. Use the online form to send Flaherty an email at: http://cupe.ca/action/kananaskis-cpp.

Contract talks for St. John’s inside workers break off

Contract talks between CUPE Local 1289 and the City of St. John’s have broken off. The main stumbling block is contract language, which deals with temporary job postings. The current collective agreement provides for a period of eight weeks before temporary jobs are posted. The city is seeking to significantly extend that time frame. The local will be applying to the Department of Labour to ask that a Conciliator be assigned to help find a solution.

Patience brings reward in Delta, B.C.

After ten months of bargaining, CUPE 454 members at the Delta Museum and Archives, a society that relies solely on grants and donations for operating costs, have a new collective agreement that includes wage increases and benefit improvements. The settlement includes wage increases of 1.5 per cent effective January 1, 2010 and a 1 per cent effective January 1, 2011. Other provisions include a market adjustment to a grossly undervalued position, recognition in the MOA of a pension plan, vacation improvement, an employee-driven Accumulated Time Off provision, and a benefits plan that shares the cost with the employer for medical, Extended Health Benefits, dental, and Group Life insurance.

The employer was willing to look at a Flexible Benefits plan, but the bargaining committee rejected the cafeteria-style option in favour of a group insurance plan. “This workplace has never had any medical or dental benefits and now we have MSP, Group Life insurance, Extended Health Benefits, and a dental plan – all shared 50/50 with the employer,” says Jordana Kerry, CUPE 454 bargaining and executive committee member.

CUPE 4308 member wins Aboriginal Affairs Award

Angela Connors, Volunteer and Special Events Coordinator at Central Neighbourhood House, received a City of Toronto Aboriginal Affairs Award. She worked to establish the Reva Jewell Aboriginal Supportive Housing complex that will open in 2011. She has also been involved with water issues and the continued impact of mercury poisoning on the Grassy Narrows First Nation. An Ojibway from the Saugeen First Nation Beaver Clan, Angela is a member of the CUPE Ontario Aboriginal Council.

CUPE calls for justice for workers killed in Bangladesh

At least 28 garment workers were killed and dozens more injured after a fire broke out at a clothing factory near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Eyewitness reports indicate that at least two of the six exits were locked, a common occurrence in the building. The company, That’s It Sportswear Ltd., produces clothing for the Gap and Wrangler.

CUPE President Paul Moist expressed the anger felt by CUPE members, stating “We stand in solidarity with these workers and we call on the government of Bangladesh to investigate this most recent occurrence and arrest the factory owners and operators. They must improve and enforce laws to protect workers from these senseless deaths and provide a significant compensation for victims and their families.”

The incident follows a very similar situation in March 2010 where at least 21 workers were killed and 50 more were injured when the Garib & Garib Sweater Factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh, burned. Garib & Garib produces knitwear for companies like Wal-Mart and JC Penny.

rks/cope 491