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Letter from Paul Moist: Israeli attack on Gaza Freedom Flotilla

On May 31, a letter written by Paul Moist, CUPE National President, was sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging the Canadian government to condemn the recent brutal attack by the Israeli navy on a humanitarian convoy, killing ten and injuring dozens more. 

The flotilla of ships was carrying essential humanitarian aid to Gaza including construction material for rebuilding homes destroyed by Israel in Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

There were nearly 700 people on board the boats from around the world, including Members of Parliament from a number of nations, and Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire.  In his letter, Moist stated that the Canadian government must call for the Israeli government to conduct an immediate investigation into this action and to make public immediately the rules of engagement issued to the troops who carried out this lethal attack.

CUPE Ontario 47th Annual Convention held in Windsor May 26, 2010

Approximately 1,200 delegates attended the CUPE Ontario convention held on May 26.

During the convention, Fred Hahn was elected President, CUPE Ontario.  In his acceptance speech, Hahn said, “Job one is mobilizing our union members to reach out to the general public and work with them to save public services,” which now faces a challenge as contracting-out emerges as an issue in many of Ontario’s 2010 municipal election campaigns.

Candace Rennick, a long-term care worker from Peterborough, was elected as Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario, becoming the first woman and the youngest person ever elected to the post.

CUPE Ontario Convention raises $70,000 for striking Sudbury Nickel Miners

CUPE union members from across Ontario showed their support by raising $70,000 in donations and pledges for the thousands of striking Sudbury workers and their families.

On May 27, delegates attending the CUPE Ontario Convention cheered when John Fera, President of Steelworkers Local 6500, took the stage, thanking delegates, “from the bottom of my heart.”

After $30,000 was committed from CUPE Ontario local unions, OFL President Sid Ryan committed a further $5,000 from the OFLCUPE National leader Paul Moist promised to match everything raised on the floor that night, bringing the donation total to $70,000.

Action needed now to save the gun registry

CUPE members are encouraged to take action to save the National Gun Registry. 
Bill C-391, aimed at scrapping the Registry, is expected to go to the House of Commons for a vote by MPs in mid-June.  For the bill to be defeated, the 14 MPs who supported it at second reading need to be convinced to vote against it this time around.

The Standing Committee on Public Safety is about to wrap up its public consultations on the Conservative private member’s bill.

In its recent submission to the standing committee, Paul Moist said, “It is important for MPs to know that there are many organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Canadians that oppose this Bill.”

CUPE to exhibit commitment to building communities at FCM conference

CUPE demonstrated our commitment to working with municipal leaders to build the communities we all want to live in at the 73rd Annual Conference and Municipal Expo of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) which took place May 28-31 in Toronto.

CUPE offered a practical, positive municipal vision with solutions for: public services, financing and revenue-raising powers, publicly financed infrastructure, publicly-delivered solid waste and recycling services, local purchasing policies and creation of green jobs for sustainable communities, reforms that address the pension crisis and new interprovincial and international trade deals that will not undermine local power.

Fact sheets for each of CUPE’s solutions are available on “The communities we want” website at: http://cupe.ca/fcm

Municipal leaders support better pensions for all

Delegates to the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities took a stand May 29 in support of retirement security for all, backing labour’s call for an expanded public pension plan. 

There was overwhelming support for the emergency resolution, which calls for the Guaranteed Income Supplement to rise by 15% to help the poorest of the poorest Canadian seniors, and for a federal pension insurance plan.  Toronto Mayor David Miller championed the resolution at the FCM’s big city mayor’s caucus and on the conference floor.

CUPE 2745 hunger strike ends at Legislature

On May 28, the CUPE 2745 Bargaining Committee marched on the New Brunswick Legislature at the end of a five-day hunger strike to support their bargaining demands.  They were joined by more than 200 labour activists.

In negotiations for over a year, the main issue during this round of bargaining is the hours of work.  Their members work an average of 28 hours per week for 39 weeks per year with an average annual salary of $17,000.

The government is deliberately maintaining a group of 3,300 women in poverty.  For years now, the government has refused to give us guaranteed hours of work.  We work on average 28 hours a week for 39 weeks a year,” said Sandy Harding, President of CUPE 2745.

“Members don’t work enough hours to qualify for the full-time defined benefit pension plan.”

Stakeholders, workers talk pension reform in advance of finance ministers’ meeting

A panel of policy experts and workers met in Ottawa on May 25 to discuss solutions for improving Canada’s pension system at a CUPE organized event.  The panel put forward recommendations for Canada’s finance ministers as they enter their next round of meetings on pensions in Prince Edward Island in June.

Members of the audience included several Liberal and NDP politicians, as well as members of the media.

Mississauga-Halton Red Cross drivers in legal strike position

More than 40 drivers for Red Cross Mississauga-Halton Branch are in a legal strike position after negotiations broke off last week, but have decided to maintain services for dialysis patients, seniors and other passengers for the time being.  “We have a situation where some of the drivers, especially the part-timers, would actually be better off on strike pay,” said CUPE National Representative Helen Gibb-Gavel.  The association has 14 pay scales for 47 drivers.  The majority earns less than $13 an hour.

Aurora outside workers hold information picket at city hall

Aurora outside workers, members of CUPE 905, held an information picket on May 25.  The CUPE 905 collective agreement with the Town of Aurora expired on March 31, 2010 and talks that began in February 2010 have gone well so far.

We’ll be taking our position to the people and town council,” said Derek Bakshi, President of CUPE 905.  “Members of our Aurora unit (and the Whitchurch Stouffville unit) are the lowest paid in the region.”

Use purchasing power to lower prescription drug prices for all

BC should negotiate a lower price for generic prescription drugs for all British Columbians, not just those who receive their prescriptions through PharmaCare,” said CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill in a letter to BC Health Minister Kevin Falcon on
May 25.

Media reports say that Falcon has given the BC Pharmacists Association until the end of June to submit a plan on this issue.  Meanwhile, the Ontario government has indicated it wishes to work with other provinces to develop a national prescription drug strategy. 

Ontario has developed a plan to reduce the cost of generic prescription drugs by more than $500 million per year, while Alberta has announced a plan that will save it $100 million annually.

Adequate funding, real partnerships needed in public education

The BC government announcement that four school districts will participate in a pilot project on shared services, which appears to be yet another edict from on high to avoid working with education stakeholders and deal with the realities of a seriously underfunded public education system.  CUPE BC is very concerned that this could be a step towards privatizing some services.

Questioning how the proposed shared payroll and business administration systems review will unfold, CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer Mark Hancock asked, “Is there real evidence that funds will be saved and a true commitment that any savings will be redirected into education services and programs?  We know that these kinds of changes can cause chaos and stress in organizations and are concerned that members’ jobs will be affected.”

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