Dear Sisters and Brothers:
This reporting period has been a very busy period for our union.
In the past three months all 10 CUPE Provincial Divisions have held conventions. The triennial convention of the Canadian Labour Congress was also held.
We remain very busy on the collective bargaining front, with an historic provincial settlement in Newfoundland & Labrador. Sectoral conferences are being held in a number of regions and as always, organizing and union education activities are ongoing.
It seems there will be no federal election this spring or summer. Meanwhile we witnessed the most spirited Democratic Party nomination race in the US in recent memory, with Senator Barak Obama emerging as the winner.
We officially opened our new National Headquarters, the Stan Little Building. It represents our commitment to environmental principles as well as opening a new chapter in our union’s history. In 45 short years we have increased our membership over eight-fold, and our new headquarters at 1375 St. Laurent Boulevard in Ottawa will provide a good workspace for our head office and Ottawa area staff for decades to come.
In the midst of this reporting period we again paused on April 28th to remember all workers killed and injured on the job. Workplace fatalities are on the rise in Canada, which makes our 10th National Health & Safety Conference all the more important. It will be held later this fall in beautiful St. John’s, Newfoundland. I encourage all locals to consider attending this important national conference.
As always, I salute our local activists, leadership and staff. Our members’ dedication and commitment to our union was driven home to me in a card I received from one of our long-time activists, Sister Sylvia Gruda (Local 2424, Carleton University). On the occasion of her retirement she wrote me and said: “I loved being a CUPE activist, it was an honour to stand up for fairness in the workplace plus working for a just world for all”.
Thank you Sister Sylvia. You and countless numbers of activists are what CUPE is all about.
1. Fighting Privatization
Our 2007 Strategic Direction to fight P3s and privatization in all of its forms was the main focus of our NEB’s 2008 budget deliberations with $2.5 earmarked for this year’s activities.
A short 2-minute video was screened at most provincial division conventions. And all regions debated P3s and committed themselves to our all out campaign to expose P3s for what they are, a more expensive, less accountable privatization of needed public services.
Nationally, we are putting in place two new temporary staff positions associated with this initiative. A National Coordinator, Sister Mary Catherine McCarthy and a National Communications Officer, Sister Karin Jordan, both of whom will serve to share information and coordinate anti-privatization work throughout CUPE.
We have had some significant victories of late. Edmonton City Council turned down a P3 arena complex, and in Quebec City local health administrators joined CUPE support workers in speaking against a proposed P3 hospital.
On May 2nd, 50,000 workers protested health care privatization in Montreal, with supportive actions held in many communities outside of Quebec.
We face many challenges as the magnitude of P3s under consideration is unprecedented in the history of our union. The Harper Conservatives are promoting P3s and they have allies in the media, the most recent example being a 5-+ page spread in the National Post, touting the merits of P3s.
This spring I met with a couple of Premiers and with countless local government politicians. All are under pressure to consider P3s, yet many remain suspicious. They are all are open to receiving our research as there is a huge shortcoming when it comes to critical research on the detailed breakdowns of P3 schemes.
Many regions have formulated P3 fightback plans and we have encouraged all locals to work with their provincial divisions to ensure a coordinated fightback.
Fighting privatization takes many forms. We have worked to support regional press conference and the release of Steven Schrybman’s legal opinions on both the BC and Alberta legislation concerning the Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA). Related documents can be found < http://cupe.ca/privatization>here. />
As well, we are responding to the need for more member education and have developed and promoted a new course on public private partnerships, promoted and scheduled a five-day course on taking on privatization, and delivered 4-hour workshops on privatization and contracting out at various sector meetings.
We can all expect this to be a busy file for the foreseeable future, but by working together, enlisting the support of labour movement, coalition and community allies, I know we can win and meet the challenges so evident throughout our country.
2. Provincial Division Conventions
As reported on in my last quarterly report, we kicked off our spring division convention season in Saskatoon and in Calgary with the CUPE Saskatchewan and CUPE Alberta Conventions. In the past 10 weeks, our remaining eight Provincial Divisions have met in convention, as follows:
- CUPE Quebec Special Convention – March 27th, 2008, Montreal
CUPE Quebec meets every two years, with their next regular convention set for 2009. A special one-day convention was convened to elect a new Division President after the retirement of Brother Mario Gervais who served 6 years as Division President. I attended the convention and thanked Brother Mario on behalf of our entire national union for his leadership and service as a General Vice-President on our NEB.
Sister Lucie Levasseur (Local 2051, Télé University) was elected as President, and was subsequently nominated and elected as a General Vice-President on our National Executive Board. Congratulations Sister, we look forward to working with you.
The new Regional Vice-President for Quebec is Sister Nathalie Stringer (Local 4041, Air Transat). Congratulations Sister!
- CUPE New Brunswick Convention – April 3rd to 5th, 2008, Fredericton, NB
About 200 CUPE New Brunswick delegates gathered at the Fredericton Inn to set policy for the Division for the next year. The Convention heard from the NB Health Care Coalition and the Child Care Coalition. Two-thirds of our members in NB are in bargaining this year, and delegates reaffirmed their solidarity pact to one another.
The May 2008 municipal elections were a hot topic as was fighting P3s and privatization in all of its forms. The provincial Health Minister has talked of considering a P3 hospital, and there has been speculation about P3 highways and other public services going this route.
- CUPE Nova Scotia Convention – April 6th to 9th, 2008, Wolfville, NS
A record number of delegates gathered in Wolfville, in Nova Scotia’s beautiful Annapolis Valley.
NS continues in a minority government situation, and notwithstanding the tremendous victory won by the coalition of health care unions including our union, the MacDonald government is bent upon pursuing a P3 agenda.
Darrell Dexter, Provincial NDP Leader and Leader of the official opposition in the NS legislature spoke to delegates and denounced P3s along with the government’s failure to protect public medicare and their refusal to expand needed child care services. The NDP is #1 in the provincial polls and our members are ready and waiting for the next election which could come at any time.
Delegates staked out a firm position in opposition to the Corpus Sanchez report on alleged reform of the health care system, and CUPE will continue to work with the coalition of health care unions and the NS Federation of Labour.
- CUPE BC Convention – April 16th to 19th, 2008, Vancouver, BC
Over 600 delegates gathered in Vancouver to debate policy and to prepare for this fall’s local government elections and to ready themselves for the May 2009 provincial elections.
Guest Speaker Michael Shuman, from the firm Small Mart based in the US, spoke about what makes strong communities including fair wages and governments recognizing that corporate subsidies don’t work, that small business is a natural ally for workers who care about retaining jobs and a good quality of life in their communities.
He applauded CUPE BC’s efforts to speak out on the manufacturing jobs crisis in communities throughout BC.
Delegates adopted dozens of resolutions, committed themselves to the defeat of the Campbell government in 2009, and endorsed an action plan that continues to promote issues of community and environmental sustainability.
- CUPE Manitoba Convention – April 23rd to 26th, 2008, Brandon, MB
Some 200 delegates gathered in Brandon to set policy for our 25,000 members in the province of Manitoba.
There was a sombre mood as delegates debated a renewed commitment to push the provincial government to take concrete measures to combat domestic violence in the wake of the murder of Local 500 activist, Sister Shannon Scromeda, 25 years of age, who succumbed to injuries inflicted upon her by her spouse.
Delegates also renewed their commitment to workplace health and safety with plans for an anti-violence campaign to draw attention to the critical issue of workplace violnce.
- CUPE Newfoundland & Labrador Convention – May 5th to 7th, 2008, St. John’s, NL
The convention began with a tribute to provincial staff and activists who had just concluded a 4-year agreement on behalf of 4,000 school board, library, health care support and provincial crown employees. The tentative deal provides for wage hikes of 8%, 4%, 4%, and 4%. Needless to say, delegates were extremely proud of their negotiating committee.
Delegates also approved a per capita hike, and a motion to book off the Division President full-time.
Brother Wayne Lucas was acclaimed to office as President for the 10th consecutive term.
- CUPE PEI Convention – May 8th to 9th, 2008, Charlottetown, PE
About 80 delegates gathered at the University of PEI, a CUPE worksite, for their annual CUPE PEI convention.
One week prior to convention a very moving memorial service was held in memory of Sister Donalda MacDonald. Over 125 people attended, including Sisters Judy Darcy (National President Emeritus) and Julie Davis (recently retired Managing Director of Organizing and Regional Services) both of whom along with lifelong friends Sister Dianne Mackenzie (President of Donalda’s Local 1770), Brother Leo Cheverie (Local 1870) and Brother Jacques Sirois (retired Education Representative), made moving tributes to Sister Donalda.
Sister Donalda’s General Vice-President seat was filled at the April meeting of the NEB. Brother Daniel Légère (President, CUPE New-Brunswick) was elected as General Vice-President. Brother Légère’s Regional Vice-President (NB) position was filled by Sister Sandi Harding (Local 2745). Congratulations to both Brother Légère and Sister Harding on their new positions.
The convention got through all business including several anti-privatization resolutions in response to musings by the provincial government that they are considering P3 for Manor Homes re-development. CUPE has staked our firm opposition to any such move.
- CUPE Ontario Convention – May 21st to 24th, 2008, Niagara Falls, ON
Just over 900 delegates gathered in Niagara Falls for the annual CUPE Ontario convention.
Delegates reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening bargaining in all sectors, along with fighting privatization and pursuit of their detailed equality agenda.
Congratulations to the ranking Division Officers, Brother Sid Ryan, President and Brother Fred Hahn, Secretary-Treasurer, both of whom were re-elected to two-year terms.
Between March 1 to May 31, 2008, CUPE welcomed 18 new bargaining units across Canada, with just over 500 members. There are over fifty active projects underway or being considered, which, if successful, would bring in 17,000 new members.
Nova Scotia sent a mailing to the 3,300 members in the long term care sector to expand our organizing into the community services sector. This resulted in a number of productive contacts.
A full time member organizer in Newfoundland/Labrador is working on ambulance service and crossing guard organizing. We continue to await labour board decisions on the health care sector which will determine representation votes.
New Brunswick is also waiting for a labour board decision affecting organizing; this one in the ambulance service sector. The Operating Engineers made an application to carve out emergency medical services workers from the provincial employee unit. If the LRB agrees to carve out these members, we are comfortable we will win the resulting representation vote.
By a small margin, workers at the SAQ in Quebec decided to join an independent union rather than CUPE. A service contract with the bus drivers in Chambly-Carignan-Richelieu was successful. Education on organizing with locals continues.
In the Ontario region organizers are working hard on a number of representation votes which are the result of consolidation applications and sales of business. The North Bay General Hospital, the County of Essex, Waterloo Separate District School Board, Regional Municipality of Peel and City of Kitchener are at varying stages of these proceedings. A member organizer is mapping the university sector to provide data for the Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee to determine target areas.
We welcomed approximately 300 new members in Northern Manitoba Health Region as a result of a run off vote between CUPE, USW and UFCW. These are members who previously belonged to SEIU and that union arranged for the representation vote. Other organizing potential in the Manitoba region is being assessed as part of a mapping and targeting project.
Saskatchewan is patiently waiting for decisions from the Labour Relations Board dealing with the education sector. It remains to be seen if the recent change in provincial government has an effect on our progress on achieving province wide bargaining for this sector.
Alberta has a number of active projects, including the school board sector. Recent changes to the structure of health care will bring organizing opportunities in emergency medical services and may result in run off votes in health care.
In British Columbia, both HEU and CUPE are very active in organizing. Workers in post secondary, municipalities, transportation, libraries and health care all continue to want representation.
Finally, although the Airline Division was not successful in the recent organizing drive at SkyService, contact will be maintained and we remain hopeful that a future drive will succeed.
4. Strikes / Lockouts
# OF MEMBERS
Journal de Québec
Journal de Québec
Journal de Québec
5. Journal de Quebec Lockout
April 22nd was an ominous anniversary with our 252 members from Locals 1450, 1872 and 2808, reaching one year on the street in their first labour dispute with the Journal de Quebec after 40 years of relationship.
The members continue to publish their own daily paper, Media Matin Quebec, which is very popular with Quebec City residents. Over 8 million copies have been distributed over the past 12 months.
Two locked out rank-and-file members, Sister Marie-France Loubier and Brother Marc Fortier have attended all 9 provincial division conventions to tell their story. They received a thunderous welcome at each and every convention. Delegates learned about this epic struggle and opened up their hearts and their wallets to these brave members.
A total of approximately $400,000 was pledged by individual donations, local and division pledges and matching donations from CUPE National.
This is indeed one of the Quebec labour movement’s most significant labour disputes ever and it is critical that our brothers and sisters at the Journal de Quebec know that they are not alone, that 570,000 members from coast to coast support them.
To each and every delegate at all 10 conventions, thank you on behalf of our union for your kindness, your solidarity and your generosity.
6. Strategic Meetings
- 2nd Pension Trustees Meeting – May 12th to 14th – Ottawa, ON
About 75 CUPE Pension Trustees gathered in Ottawa on May 12-14, 2008 to discuss the many challenges CUPE faces on the pension front.
The conference featured three renowned speakers. Lawyer and pension expert Murray Gold highlighted three challenges facing pension plans: their qualitative and quantitative development, better regulation of financial markets as well as the fight against P3s.
UQAM professor Éric Pineault looked at the inner workings and disastrous effects of P3s.
Financial analyst and whistle blower Diane Urquhart showed that Canada urgently needs to crack down on financial crimes.
- Canadian Library Association Conference – May 21st to 24th, 2008 Vancouver, BC
CUPE was again very visible at the annual Canadian Library Association conference held in Vancouver.
In addition to our display booth and sponsorship of the keynote speaker, we delivered our message that municipal, public school, university, college, hospital and law libraries make for strong communities. My sincere thanks to members of Locals 402-02; 523; 458,1169 and 391 for their assistance with our booth.
CUPE is the union of choice for Canadian library workers, with 81 library locals, over 10,000 members in all provinces.
- FCM Conference – May 30th to June 2nd, 2008 – Quebec City, QC
More than 1,900 delegates attended this year’s Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference. For the fifth consecutive year, CUPE has increased its visibility by lobbying and strengthening relationships with mayors and councilors across the country.
This year, as in the past, hundreds of delegates stopped by the CUPE booth to pick up literature on P3s, infrastructure, sustainable funding, as well discuss a broad range of issues in cities, towns and villages. We also attended the sessions and listened to panels and keynote speakers.
I wish to thank CUPE Locals 30, 37, 79, 87, 301, 500, 1169, 4545 for their commitment and support in sending delegates. I also want to thank these members, the President of the CUPE Quebec Municipal Sector, and a number of CUPE Executive Board members for their efforts during this three-day conference. CUPE had a record number of participants, all of whom made many connections and entered into numerous significant discussions that impact on CUPE members.
CUPE represents 150,000 members in the municipal sector across Canada.
7. Canadian Labour Congress Convention
About 1900 delegates met in Toronto May 26th-30th, 2008 for the triennial CLC convention, including about 300 CUPE members.
Key issues including climate change, Aboriginal issues, privatization, health care and the manufacturing jobs crisis were debated throughout the week. I was incredibly proud of the participation of CUPE delegates in all of the key debates on the convention floor.
The CLC presented Dr. Henry Morgentaler with their “Outstanding Service to Humanity” award.
Convention delegates also approved the creation of a commission to review CLC structures and key issues such as raiding and phony unions such as the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) which are employer-dominated.
Congratulations to the following CUPE members elected/appointed to the CLC Executive Council.
- Marie Clarke Walker, re-elected as CLC Executive Vice-President
- Lucie Levasseur, Affirmative Action Vice-President
- Toni Karner, CUPE 4207, Youth Vice-President
- Lynn Taylor, HEU CUPE 6010, Diversity Vice-President for Workers with Disabilities
- Victor Elkins, HEU CUPE 6010, re-elected as Diversity Vice-President for LGBT
- Joanne Webb, CUPE 4800, Alternate for Diversity Vice-President for Aboriginal Workers
- Ali Mallah, CUPE 79, alternate for Diversity Vice-President for Workers of Colour
I also serve as a Vice-President on both the CLC Executive Committee and Council.
My sincere congratulations and thanks to the following CUPE staff who have announced plans to retire. On behalf of our entire union, thank you for a lifetime of commitment to the membership and for making our union better through your hard work and dedication.
- Sister Carolyn Kirby, Oshawa Area Office, (April 1, 2008)
- Sister Linda Holmberg, Nanaimo Area Office (May 1, 2008)
- Brother Graham Deline, National Office (June 1, 2008)
- Sister Carmela Allevato, BC Regional Office (June 1, 2008)
- Brother René Fortin, National Office (July 1, 2008)
- Brother Michael Dunn, Kitchener Area Office (August 1, 2008)
- Sister Claire Hébert, Saint John Area Office (August 1, 2008)
- Brother John Elder, National Office (August 1, 2008)
- Brother Andrew Huculak, Saskatchewan Regional Office (September 1, 2008)
- Sister Lin Pennesi, London Area Office (October 1, 2008)
9. In Memoriam
I offer my sincere condolences to the families of three who of our retirees who passed away. Brother Gerald Patterson who passed away on April 3, 2008, Brother Michael Harper who passed away on May 25, 2008 and Brother Ronald Blundon who passed away on June 2, 2008.
I would also like to extend my heartfelt condolences to the family of Brother Ron Crawley, one of our CUPE staff at National Office, who passed away on March 27th after a long and courageous battle with cancer.
My condolences as well to Brother Michael Hurley (OCHU President and NEB member) whose mother Margaret passed away on June 1, 2008.
In closing, I think you will agree that CUPE members remain very busy and are achieving some incredible results on behalf of our members.
Preparing for our future, in my view, always involves knowing and appreciating our history.
On May 28th, I was privileged to attend a Local 1000 (Power Workers’ Union) tribute dinner for Brother Kealey Cummings. Friends and co-workers saluted Kealey’s over 50 years of membership and activism in CUPE, the NDP and the broader social justice movement.
It was a fitting tribute to a founding father of our union. Brother Kealey and thousands of other members and staff built our union and we are forever in their debt.
I also wish to pass along a special thank you to Brother René Fortin who retires July 1st, after 28 years on staff with our union.
René has served both our members and his co-workers with distinction. For the past five years he has worked with me as an Executive Assistant and words cannot express what his solidarity and friendship have meant to me.
Well done Brother……………well done. On behalf of our entire union I wish you a long healthy and happy retirement.
To each of you…..thank you for your hard work and commitment to our 570,000 members, day in and day out. I hope you are each able to enjoy some family time over the summer.