Sisters and Brothers:
The year 2012 has gotten off to a running start. Looking back at the last quarter of 2011, we see the groundwork was being laid for some of the program developments and campaigns currently underway.
You approved a budget last December that will allow us to support locals and divisions in the necessary work of promoting and defending our members and the services they deliver. We built that budget on some basic assumptions, including an expectation that we would have additional revenue over what had been projected for 2011. Indeed, you will see in the statements reported here that we ended 2011 with revenues over budget by $4.2 million, as expected.
It was just over a year ago that some of our staff travelled to Wisconsin to support the occupation of that state’s legislative building in protest against draconian measures to deny basic bargaining rights to public sector workers. The degree to which the assault on workers and their unions, with special targeting of the public sector, has intensified in 12 months is almost breathtaking.
We knew the agenda of the Stephen Harpers, Brad Walls, David Alwards, Christy Clarks and Rob Fords. But it was still shocking to hear Harper’s declaration in Davos, Switzerland that Canadian old-age pensioners are costing too much. Instead of acting to ensure all Canadians can have a secure retirement, as the Canadian Labour Congress campaign demands, he is threatening to throw even more seniors into poverty or sentence them to a lifetime of work.
In Ontario, the Drummond report is going to put pressure on many of our sectors through the provincial budget. In New Brunswick, the government is talking about cutting as much as one-quarter of the public service. And, in the private sector, our sisters and brothers are facing employers who think nothing about locking the doors and moving away.
There are days when the attack feels relentless. But our members are fighting back, thinking strategically and fighting smart. This is the way to both ensure the best use of our resources and to score more victories.
Sometimes, the wins are big. In Saskatchewan, we were able to support a Charter challenge of that province’s Public Services Essential Services Act with CUPE acting as intervener. The court has ruled that the law is unconstitutional.
Sometimes the wins minimize the damage an employer is trying to inflict. Four municipal locals in Toronto joined forces in a strike averting campaign at the beginning of the year. With support from the National Strike Fund, they ran a television ad and intensified work with the media to try to help the public understand how destroying job security hurts public services. At the time of writing this report, three locals were still at the table; however, Local 416 managed to maintain a level of security for members, see some wage gains and avert a lockout by the employer.
And, when it comes to pensions, our members are keenly interested in seeing improvements, not cutbacks. More than 600 members registered to attend a special pension meeting organized by CUPE Quebec. This is a campaign that will continue to grow.
As mandated by the National Constitution, we started the year with the pleasurable task of meeting with all of our staff representatives across the country. In their reports, we heard that members are still achieving decent settlements in many sectors despite the difficult bargaining climate.
One of the topics I was able to discuss with staff at those meetings was the financial well-being of our locals. This is a matter that is gaining importance, not only because of the duty we have to members to properly manage their dues monies, but also because of another threat to our independence and activism as a union. I am representing CUPE on the CLC working group struck to deal with Bill C-377, a private member’s bill that is the second attempt in this Parliament to force unions to publicly report all of our financial transactions.
The real purpose of this bill is to try to stop us from engaging in political activity on behalf of our members. It is an attack on our democratic right to take collective action in our own interest. We have a big, difficult job to do explaining to the public why this is an attack on democracy. But we cannot be silent.
I also had the pleasure in January of travelling with Brother Paul to Washington, DC where we met with our sister public sector unions. We have so many common interests and face a similar assault on our rights as workers and trade unionists. These are relationships to nurture and sustain.
Solidarity was also high on the agenda here at home. I visited the locked out workers at Rio Tinto in Alma, Quebec and presented a cheque to show our support. This is truly a battle over social values where the employer wants to continue to contract out work. Friends and neighbours are forced to work side by side for different wages, one employed by the company and one employed by a private contractor. Instead of working on a fair settlement, the employer has locked the doors.
We also contributed to the CAW members who were originally locked out by Caterpillar, owners of Electro-Motive in London, Ontario, and subsequently lost their jobs entirely as the company packed up to move away.
In addition, we are proposing a donation to Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 508 and Local 1229, representing workers of the Halifax Metro Transit in Nova Scotia and workers of Acadian Coach Lines in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The members of Local 508 have been on strike for more than five weeks while Local 1229 members have been locked out for three months. Solidarity is the only way to fight back against attempts by employers to take away workers’ rights. I will bring motions for these contributions to have the endorsement of the entire National Executive Board.
Division conventions have started up for 2012. I will elaborate on many of these topics there, where I look forward to getting to know many more CUPE leaders and activists. I will be happy to report on the financial state of our National union, which remains sound as outlined in the rest of my report.
Our preliminary financial results show a surplus in the General Fund, largely driven by revenues exceeding forecast. Because of the importance of our roadmap with respect to Employee Future Benefit Liabilities, our auditors have a standing recommendation that any time we have available funds, we direct them toward increasing the Provision for Employee Future Benefits.