NATIONAL PRESIDENT’S REPORT
March 2009 – June 2009
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
This spring’s reporting period has been a particularly busy one for our union.
All 10 provincial divisions met in convention. In addition, national and regional sectoral meetings and conferences were held throughout the country.
On the political front, our party, the NDP, had a disappointing loss in British Columbia in the May 12 election, and an historic breakthrough with our first ever NDP government elected in Nova Scotia on June 9.
The global recession continued to put downward pressure on the Canadian economy. Unemployment has risen to a 15-year high, and major concessions have been forced upon auto workers and others. The lack of pension coverage and the pressure on certain plans, including our own Air Canada members’ plan, have placed retirement income issues on the front-burner. This is a much needed national debate that labour must take the lead on.
Collective bargaining has changed dramatically from the relatively stable climate we had less than a year ago.
A total of 1,800 members of Locals 82 and 543, employed by the City of Windsor, have been on strike since mid-April in a nasty dispute caused by the city’s demand for retirement benefit concessions. In British Columbia, paramedics, members of Local 873, have been on strike since April 1. These workers face almost 100% essential service designation and therefore have little bargaining power.
Notwithstanding these very challenging economic times, CUPE members and staff continue to achieve incredible victories. I am also proud to say that in addition to our organizing, servicing and bargaining responsibilities, our union remains front and center in the key social justice and policy debates at both the national and international levels.
While the global recession is causing pain for many workers and their communities, it underscores the failed policies of the past 25 years in the deregulation, privatization and free trade policies of governments the world over.
And it should serve to drive home the point that solidarity amongst all workers, unions and social justice allies is critical for our collective well-being.
1. Collective Bargaining
As this report is written, we have a number of disputes under way:
Locals 82 and 543 (City of Windsor)
The 1,800 members of the above locals have been on strike since early April over the city’s demand for concessions. The local paper, the Windsor Star, has abandoned any notion of journalistic integrity in their daily attacks on CUPE members and our union as a whole.
We have received solid support from the CAW and other affiliates in a strike that we must win. We cannot allow employers to use the recession as a pretext to roll the clock back on long fought for benefits and wages.
Local 873 (Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia)
On April 1, British Columbia paramedics, members of Local 873, commenced strike action. There are many significant issues including wages and the poor treatment of part-time paramedics who make up well over half of the workforce.
British Columbia’s essential services legislation declares the vast majority of paramedics as essential, thereby reducing our bargaining power. CUPE British Columbia held a spirited rally during their April convention, and as this report is written, talks are set to restart with the assistance of a provincial mediator.
As is always the case, we have hundreds of collective agreements open in all regions and sectors of our union. Many settlements have been achieved which continue to see wages increase and other modest gains and no concessions. These represent significant achievements in these tough times and I salute our staff and bargaining teams on a job well done.
We also face many challenges at a number of tables including the City of Toronto, where two of our larger locals, 79 and 416, face a strong possibility of strike action brought about by employer demands for wage restraint and sick leave concessions.
In Saskatchewan, our 12,600 health care members have worked over a year since their agreement expired with no real progress on any bargaining issues and their right to strike all but eliminated by new essential service legislation introduced by the right wing Saskatchewan Party government.
In Quebec, thousands of our members are part of “common front” negotiations on behalf of 500,000 Quebec public employees.
Our union has faced tough bargaining in previous recessions and done a good job for our members. High unemployment rates and the general economic downturn will embolden some of our employers to seek radical concessions; this is happening currently in the City of Windsor.
At our March NEB meeting, our Board unanimously adopted our Plan to Fight Concessions and Defend Free Collective Bargaining rights. It is attached to this report and I urge each of you to read it and to resolve within your local to assist any and all striking members who may be forced onto picket lines in your community.
The current recession will pose many challenges to our union; if we strengthen our solidarity both within and outside of our union, we will better meet the challenges we’ll face.
# OF MEMBERS
Grand Forks Library Workers
Aramark Canada Ltd. at St. Thomas University and at Hugh John Fleming Forestry Centre
Ambulance Paramedics of BC
City of Windsor (Outside)
City of Windsor (Inside)
2. Regional/Service Division Updates
Over 500 delegates met in Victoria at the annual CUPE British Columbia convention. A rally in support of provincial paramedics, members of Local 873, was held. Former special advisor to the UN on HIV/AIDS, Stephen Lewis, was the keynote speaker at convention.
In mid-May, Local 2254 at the Grand Forks Library ratified a new three-year collective agreement. The five members had been locked out on January 20 and returned to work in March under their existing contract after the employer agreed to resume mediation. Concessions were withdrawn and wages and benefits were increased. A joint committee, assisted by CUPE’s equality representative, will develop a personal and sexual harassment policy and procedure.
The second Young Workers’ Conference was held in June, with over 50 young CUPE members in attendance. The goal of the conference is to educate and mobilize young members to become active in our union. From all accounts, the members at this conference will surely be involved.
Delegates met in Edmonton for the annual CUPE Alberta convention. A demonstration was held at the provincial legislature in support of acute health care workers and paramedics who are being forced to change unions by reason of provincial health care restructuring.
Brother D’Arcy Lanovaz did not re-offer for the position of division president. He received a warm thank you for his four years of service. Congratulations to Brother Dennis Mol (Local 30) on being elected as division president.
Public private partnerships took yet another tumble. Surprisingly, the provincial government has decided that four high schools will now be built publicly. They cite the economic climate as the key reason for the flip flop, as the private partner has encountered financial problems.
Delegates met in Regina for the annual CUPE Saskatchewan convention. The focus was on the attacks being waged by the Brad Wall government on the right to strike for public sector workers.
Bargaining continues on behalf of provincial health care workers whose agreement expired over a year ago. A strong strike mandate has been given by our members to back up our contract demands.
CUPE Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal Council will again be very active and visible at the province’s Back to Batoche Days, a celebration of Métis/aboriginal heritage.
The annual CUPE Manitoba convention was held in Dauphin and delegates heard a powerful presentation from Brother Antonio Tinio of the Philippines (Chair of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers) regarding government oppression and the danger trade unionists face every day.
CUPE Local 500 continues to battle Winnipeg City Hall over plans to create a new water utility, a first step towards privatization. A media campaign is up and running and a civic coalition is opposing this move.
Just over 1,000 delegates gathered in Toronto for the annual CUPE Ontario convention.
Individual donations and local, division and National support resulted in $250,000 being raised for the Windsor strikers, members of Locals 82 and 543.
Delegates also heard from a number of private and public sector union leaders in a strong show of solidarity in the face of the global recession. Ontario’s economy has been the hardest hit in terms of job loss since the recession began last October.
Members of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) are in a tough round of negotiations in addition to their ongoing campaigning against health care cutbacks and privatization.
About 600 delegates attended the biennial CUPE Quebec convention held in Quebec City in late March.
Resolutions dealing with our free collective bargaining rights, public energy and increasing our anti-privatization work were adopted.
The City of Montreal has suspended plans for a large water P3 due to huge cost increases and conflict of interest charges.
At the provincial level, as the economic crisis deepens, the fixation on P3s seems to be waning as more and more opposition groups become very vocal and public about the shortcomings of P3 projects.
History was made on June 9 with the election of Nova Scotia’s first ever NDP government under the leadership of Darrell Dexter. CUPE activists, staff and retirees worked tirelessly on the campaign and I offer a sincere congratulations and thanks to each and every one of you.
Almost 200 delegates met in Halifax in late April and held an emotional debate over the crisis funding situation to the province’s women’s shelters. Some $6,000 was raised to support a campaign to demand adequate funding for the shelters.
Banning bottled water in all public institutions remains a hot campaign issue throughout Nova Scotia.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Delegates to the annual division convention held in Grand Falls-Windsor adopted an emergency resolution in support of paper workers at the Abitibi-Bowater operation who lost their jobs, their severance and are in a battle over their pension rights. The entire convention attended a rally at the plant which garnered needed media attention for these workers.
We lost a run-off vote in the Central Health Region which had been forced upon us by the provincial government. We were out-numbered in this vote, but ran a spirited campaign which did our union proud. To all of our staff and activists, a sincere thank you.
Prince Edward Island
Delegates gathered in Mill River for the annual division convention. Key topics for debate were our ongoing campaign against rural school closures and our successful campaign to keep new Manor Homes public as the Ghiz government backed off of the P3 approach.
I attended a great breakfast meeting with global justice activists (as I did at the New Brunswick convention as well) where I showed a PowerPoint presentation on my trip to Colombia last year, and we discussed our ongoing opposition to the proposed Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Delegates to the annual CUPE New Brunswick convention held in Fredericton focused on the provincial government’s attack on free collective bargaining through their fiscal restraint measures which include two years of zero in all public sector contracts.
A spirited rally was held in cooperation with a citizens’ coalition opposing budget cuts to the professional ferry service.
As part of our fightback campaign, we are at the New Brunswick Labour Board arguing that private nursing home workers, members of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Homes Unions (representing 46 locals), had a tentative agreement that the province has illegally overturned.
The fight to preserve free collective bargaining will be front and center in New Brunswick and I am proud to report that the other three “Eastern Bloc” provinces have adopted solidarity pacts with CUPE New Brunswick.
Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU)
Tentative agreements were reached with the “Big 3” – Compass, Aramark and Sodexho – achieving wage and benefit improvements and stronger tools for health and safety, workload, grievances and scheduling issues. Members ratified the agreements at all but two worksites. The union will review the specific concerns at those sites and set up further meetings with the employer. The gains that were achieved are attributed to the Living Wage Campaign and the strong strike mandate given to the bargaining teams.
We have had to involve the Canadian Labour Congress in a serious attack on our HEU members, specifically our licensed practical nurses (LPNs). The BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) has undertaken a campaign to attempt to move members of other unions, including CUPE/HEU, and starting with LPNs, into the BCNU. They are inviting members to sign “associate membership” cards with BCNU. Their plan is to show enough support to convince the government to move LPNs into the nurses’ bargaining unit and their union.
We have filed a complaint with the Canadian Labour Congress under the raiding provisions of the CLC constitution. On May 14, the Congress directed BCNU to “cease all actions in which it is interfering in and seeking to disrupt the established bargaining relationships of other affiliates”.
To this date, BCNU has been unwilling to withdraw from their campaign and have in fact escalated their actions.
This troubles me greatly as I would rather be able to continue to focus on the work ahead and the accomplishments our unions have made over the past number of years together. We are committed to trying to convince nurses’ unions that more can be gained by working with one another, rather than against each other.
The most significant development for our airline sector is bargaining at Air Canada. The company is determined to take advantage of the current economic crisis to weaken our collective agreements. However, our Air Canada Component bargaining team is up to this challenge. They are armed with financial advisors and pension actuaries, along with national representatives and researchers, who will help make sure that flight attendants are not the scapegoats of mismanagement and corporate greed.
On the legislative front, the industry is once again facing a threat to the 1:40 flight attendant to passenger ratio. The result would be to have fewer flight attendants on board ready to intervene should any emergency occur. This is a recurring theme that we are quite prepared to lobby to defeat once again.
Finally, I want to pay tribute once again to the five CUPE flight attendants at CanJet for their courageous work during the hostage taking in Montego Bay, Jamaica on April 19 and 20. As I said at the time, this episode clearly illustrates how important well-trained and dedicated flight attendants are for the safety of passengers. All CUPE members salute the outstanding, heroic work of these five CUPE members.
Organizing Staff have been quite active this spring. A major campaign at Air Canada concluded with members reaffirming their commitment to CUPE. In British Columbia HEU has undertaken a major fight where the BC Nurses’ Union has aggressively targeted our licensed practical nurses in a raid.
During the period of March 1, 2009 to May 31, 2009 we organized 11 new units representing 336 members.
Atlantic Region. Efforts in Newfoundland continued to focus on representation votes as a result of health care restructuring. Unfortunately we lost the final vote in the Central Health Region despite a tremendous effort by our organizing team. We were outnumbered by a margin of two to one going into this campaign. We wish our departing members well and hope they continue to fight for public healthcare.
In both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland there are a number of active campaigns on going across all sectors including the mapping of child care in Nova Scotia.
Welcome to our newest members, support staff at Summer Street Industries.
Maritimes Region. On-going campaigns in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have the potential to increase membership by more than 800 new members.
Health care restructuring continues to be a priority in New Brunswick. Member-organizers will be setting up a booth during Old Home Week in Charlottetown, PEI.
In New Brunswick, Court of the Queen’s Bench struck down parts of that province’s labour legislation that denied casual workers the right to unionize. This is a major victory for CUPE New Brunswick. The province has been given one year to remedy the issue.
Quebec Region. Despite signing a non-raiding pact we remain vigilant as we prepare for an open period in the public sector. Not all unions in Quebec have signed on to the pact.
We have applied for certification of 300 employees of the Centre de réadaptation en déficience intellectuelle de Québec. Other applications have been submitted as well and we are waiting to find out whether we are going to participate in a vote.
Welcome to our newest Quebec members, 18 members in Local 4944 at the Municipality of Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval and 15 members in Local 4947 at the Municipality of Lacolle.
Ontario Region. Work continues on organizing projects throughout all sectors. There are currently 32 outstanding projects. They range from the beginning stages of an organizing campaign to the application stage. Potential membership would be approximately 5,000.
During the period, Ontario welcomed six new units into CUPE representing 123 members. Employees with Abigail Learning Centre, Casselhome East Nipissing, Salvation Army Harbour Light, Hamilton Children’s Aid, Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention and Town of Arnprior voted to join CUPE. Welcome to these new members.
Manitoba Region. The region is currently working on four active organizing projects in the education, personal care and social services sector with the potential of adding approximately 200 new members. We continue to pursue leads in the municipal and child care sector. A major internal initiative is underway to “Build a Strong Local Union”.
Saskatchewan Region. Conflicting Saskatchewan Labour Board decisions continue to pose significant difficulties in our organizing efforts. Current activity at the Labour Board revolves around our successorship application for our current 1,500 members. Staff are in the process of developing a major organizing campaign to be ready for September. In June we will roll out our Saskatchewan Education Organizing Campaign.
Alberta Region. Organizing in Alberta is quite active with campaigns in most sectors. Potential membership growth is at least 800 new members.
We could lose 964 paramedic members and 1,410 acute health care workers to other unions in coming months. The Alberta government is restructuring health care and forcing our members to join other unions without the benefit of a vote.
CUPE welcomes our newest members, 12 long term care workers at the Wood’s Homes in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories and 100 new members in Local 4946, Peace View Bus Drivers.
British Columbia Region. In BC organizers are actively pursuing opportunities in the municipal, education, library and social services sectors with a potential for almost 2,000 new members.
4. Canadian Labour Congress
The three million member CLC has been focused on the economic crisis in a number of ways, including:
- Public rallies in support of much needed reform of the Employment Insurance System.
- Continued lobbying for pension reform, including an expansion of CPP, increases to the Old Age Security benefits and a badly needed Pension Insurance Fund.
- The CLC coordinated labour response at all public meetings held by the Federal government on pension reform.
- The CLC supports the call by Canada’s Premiers for a national summit on pensions.
- Beginning on Labour Day, the CLC will focus on pensions in addition to the EI issue.
At the May meeting of the CLC Executive Council, we met with Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and all three Federal opposition leaders. In each of these four meetings, EI reform and pensions were our entire focus. The October CLC Executive Meeting will focus on Parliament Hill lobbying on these issues.
Now, more than ever, it is critical for our labour movement to write and present a common front to protect past gains and to plan for future expansion of needed public services like a national child care program.
Manufacturing workers have been decimated by the recession and as CUPE activists, we need to visibly support all other unions in their time of need.
5. National Conferences/Sector Meetings
i) National Paramedics Meeting, June 4-5, 2009 – Niagara Falls, ON
CUPE Local 1019, Niagara paramedics, hosted twenty CUPE locals from across Canada at the third such national meeting. These meetings provide an opportunity to spend time focusing on issues that are important to emergency medical services workers, whether they are paramedics, emergency medical technicians or dispatchers. Seventy-five (75) local union activists shared stories, information and laughs.
An important part of the meeting was having the executive committee of the EMS Chiefs join delegates for a discussion on common concerns. Members presented CUPE concerns related to four topic areas: a. Impact of interprovincial agreements on labour mobility; b. Standardization of scope of practice across Canada; c. New and changing service delivery models; and d. Potential for takeover of EMS delivery by fire services.
Involving younger workers in the union was presented in a morning session. Delegates compared generational differences and discussed ways the union can accommodate the attitudes and needs of Generations X and Y.
The group committed to continuing their networking and will meet again at their sector meeting at the 2009 National Convention.
ii) HIV/AIDS Meeting, May 20-22, 2009 – Ottawa, ON
Fifty people participated in the two-day HIV/AIDS meeting on the basis of their background, knowledge and experience on HIV/AIDS issues.
- CUPE members from AIDS service organizations and national committees;
- CUPE national and regional staff;
- The Canadian Labour Congress; and
- HIV/AIDS NGOs: Stephen Lewis Foundation, Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, CUSO-VSO, Canadian AIDS Society, and Sandy Hill Community Health Centre.
The impetus for this meeting came out of the Strategic Directions Policy Paper as adopted at CUPE National Convention in 2007 reflecting a desire to have a clear policy on and approach to HIV/AIDS. The strategic meeting focused primarily on where CUPE may have a positive impact on the issue of HIV and AIDS at the community, national and international levels, and developed a number of recommendations on how to advance our work on HIV/AIDS.
iii) Atlantic/Maritimes Political Action Conference, June 12-14, 2009 – Moncton, NB
Over 140 CUPE activists and staff gathered in Moncton, New Brunswick for the 2nd Atlantic/Maritimes Political Action Conference held June 12-14. The theme of the conference was “Making the Connection from the Ballot Box to the Lunch Box”, and focused on how workers and the labour movement can advance their agenda by engaging in political action.
The conference held many notable speakers such as NDP Leader Jack Layton who helped kick off the Friday evening NDP fundraising dinner, author Silver Donald Cameron (who recently published The Education of Everette Richardson – The Nova Scotia Fishermen’s Strike 1970-71), MLA Yvon Godin, New Brunswick NDP Leader Roger Duguay, and Brother Robert Chisholm who up until recently was our CUPE Atlantic Regional Director and previous leader of the Nova Scotia NDP.
The victory in Nova Scotia of the New Democratic Party was an inspiration to all.
iv) Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Annual Convention, June 5-8, 2009 – Whistler, BC
Some 1,600 mayors and councillors gathered in beautiful Whistler, British Columbia for the annual FCM convention.
Our union was very visible with our display in the trade show, our delegates’ reception and our attendance at workshops. Our research focused on P3s, the importance of public services and infrastructure renewal.
The CLC also attended and staffed a booth for the third consecutive year. In addition to lobbying, we meet literally hundreds of local politicians, many of whom are labour-endorsed and quite happy to see us.
My sincere thanks to leaders from CUPE Local 30 (City of Edmonton) and Local 37 (City of Calgary) who sent delegates at their own expense to support our FCM work.
6. International Update
Our union’s global justice work continues to grow with new and exciting global justice projects and an ever-increasing number of global justice activists.
CUPE New Brunswick created a new provincial global justice committee at their recent convention, and our global justice display was at each of the 10 provincial conventions held this spring.
Two Philippino trade union leaders Antonio Tinio and Ferdinand Rimando Gaite spoke at the CUPE Ontario and CUPE Manitoba conventions; they were sponsored on the tour of Canada by Local 4600 (Carleton University – Teaching Assistants and Contract Instructors).
Our national union has been working very hard on exposing the perils of the proposed Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. We have slowed this item down through a concerted lobby of Liberal MPs. Our Colombian sisters and brothers want the world to know that they do not have basic trade union and human rights and that their government is part of the problem, not the solution.
If you go to cupe.ca, you will find our latest annual report on our global justice work. I urge you to read this excellent publication; it tells countless stories about this important part of our union’s work.
If each of our 2,400 local unions made even a small donation to our Global Justice Fund, we could do much more important work to build solidarity throughout the world.
My sincere thanks to the many staff, activists and locals that lead our union in the pursuit of global justice.
Since my last report, I have offered my sincere condolences on behalf of our union to the families of the following CUPE staff who have passed away: Brother Phillip Booker, retiree, who passed away on March 31; and Mrs. Regina Hughes (spouse of late retiree Merlyn Hughes), who passed away on April 14.
I also am sad to report on the following CUPE members who died in workplace accidents recently:
- Brother Clifford Payne (CUPE Local 3148 – bus driver in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador), March 12, 2009.
- Brother James “Jamie” Vecchio (CUPE Local 3 – Sault Ste. Marie landfill), April 16, 2009.
- Sister Ceilidh Ryan (CUPE Local 67 – Sault Ste. Marie Public Works and Traffic Department), April 29, 2009.
Again this quarter, we have a number of CUPE staff who are retiring after many years of dedicated service:
- Sister Hélène Whisselle – National Office – August 1, 2009
- Sister JoAnn Collett – National Office – November 1, 2009
- Brother Terry Goulding – New Glasgow Area Office – November 1, 2009
- Sister Diane Ouimet – National Office – December 1, 2009
- Sister Irene Harris – Kingston Area Office – January 1, 2010
- Sister Louise Leclair – National Office – January 1, 2010
My sincere thanks to each of the above-listed CUPE staff and my best wishes to each for long, healthy and happy retirements.
I want to congratulate CUPE Research Representative (BC Regional Office) Sister Kathy Corrigan on her election as MLA for the new provincial constituency of Burnaby-Deer Lake. Well done Sister …… and best wishes.
Spring is a busy month for Brother Claude and I, and I want to offer sincere thanks to each and every provincial division for your warm hospitality during our stay in your province(s).
I hope that all locals will make it a priority to attend our upcoming national convention in Montreal (October 5-9). While the economic downturn poses challenges, I am confident we will meet these challenges by strengthening our union through good debate and the solidarity that our almost 600,000 members want and deserve.
To each of our activists and staff, thank you for your dedication and commitment to our members. I hope each of you can enjoy some time off with family and friends over the summer.
We’ll see you in the fall …… remember our unity is our strength.
PAUL MOIST, National President:jvp/cope 491 Encl.