In a tough bargaining climate, success comes from being strong, united and engaged with our membership.

That’s the message CUPE National President Mark Hancock delivered to hundreds of municipal workers Wednesday night, as he helped open the annual Ontario Municipal Employees’ Coordinating Committee (OMECC) Conference in Niagara Falls.

“In the end, it’s all about being united. Not just in our locals, but across the province and across the country,” said Hancock.

Brother Mark also paid tribute to the members of CUPE Local 101, who last summer staged an eight-week strike to defend their members against drastic concessions demanded by their Employer, the City of London.

“Their bargaining playbook was filled with buzzwords like ‘flexibility’ and ‘customer service’, using them to justify their demands of major and severe concessions,” he said.

It’s a playbook other municipalities are using, in spite of an improving economy.

“In spite of a recovering economy, Ontario municipalities are pushing concessionary bargaining harder than ever,” said Hancock.

The key to pushing back is coordination among Local unions, combined with strengthening and engaging our membership at the local level.

“The employers are using the same playbook to try and push concessions at the bargaining table, so we need to fight back with our own game plan,” he said, adding that, “When we successfully push back at one bargaining table, it helps strengthen our hand at the next.”

The theme of this year’s OMECC conference is ‘Building our Bargaining Strength: The Sequel.’ The conference will conclude on April 1.