Dear Sisters and Brothers:
The third quarter of 2012, our summer season, has been anything but quiet and restful in terms of the issues facing CUPE members.
In Ontario the minority Liberal government introduced legislation which destroys the collective bargaining rights for all unions in the public school sector, including some 55,000 CUPE support workers (more on this within this report). While Canada is officially in the post-recession period, austerity is the order of the day in many jurisdictions. Payment for the deficits incurred by the much-needed 2009/2010 stimulus programs is now being laid at the feet of public employees while corporations, many of whom received tax cuts, are sitting on over $525 billion in cash, not investing in expansion or new jobs.
A number of CUPE locals were on the picket line facing unprecedented demands for concessions from their employers. Countless others were at the bargaining table in a very difficult austerity/restraint environment.
Canada’s provincial and territorial Premiers met for their annual summer gathering in Halifax. It is clear that all regions have growing concerns with the austerity stance being taken by the Harper government. I attended this meeting along with the CLC and federation of labour leaders and we spent two days lobbying leaders on key issues including health care, the environment, other fiscal transfers and of course our “Retirement Security for All”, campaign.
The people of Quebec were called to the polls and fed up with the scandal plagued Liberal Party of Jean Charest, a new Parti Quebecois minority government was elected. Our Quebec members will have to remain vigilant as Quebec’s newest political party, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) campaigned on an austerity agenda including plans to lay off thousands of Quebec Hydro workers.
In late August I attended and spoke at the Canadian Auto Workers’ union convention in Toronto. This was an historic convention as the CAW voted unanimously to continue with the process of merging with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP). CEP will meet in convention in October to deal with a similar motion to continue towards their merger into a new union, Canada’s largest private sector union of over 300,000 members, in 2013. This is an important initiative designed to better equip the organization of unorganized private sector workers and to put a stop to the declining private sector union density in Canada.
I was pleased and privileged to march with CUPE members and hundreds of others in the annual Ottawa Labour Day parade and picnic. I thanked all of the CUPE people that I met at the Ottawa march and as we pass the mid-point of 2012, I offer my sincere thanks to all CUPE activists and staff for your ongoing efforts day in and day out to stand up for our members and the critical public services we provide each and every day right throughout Canada.