Sisters and Brothers:

The last quarter of 2012 was an extremely busy period, with the same level of activity carrying into 2013.

The National Bargaining Conference set the tone for our 50th anniversary year with a vision that includes returning to our roots as a labour movement, having the courage to put tough issues on the bargaining table and building the strength to do it by talking one-on-one with our members.

After having our annual meetings with national staff in every province, I am encouraged by their readiness to take on these challenges together with our members. At those meetings, we heard from staff in Ontario who helped organize against Bill 115 and have led tough negotiations at more than one bargaining table; staff in Saskatchewan who are deeply concerned about the impact of Bill 85 on workers and their unions; in British Columbia where the zero wage mandate has turned into the cost-neutral mandate; in Quebec, where pensions are under attack, and staff from Newfoundland and Labrador and yet another Conservative premier of a wealthy province is crying poor. Our staff are understanding what they have to do.

For the first time, Brother Paul and I also met with National Office staff, excluding clerical staff. The CUPE Constitution requires that we meet with staff in the regions; however, our National Office staff also play important roles in supporting locals and other staff. It was good to hear the ideas and inspiration coming out of the National Bargaining Conference in particular.

At all of those meetings, I explained the 2013 budget and the factors the National Executive Board had to consider in adopting a budget that puts the better part of new revenues into resources for confronting an attack that we face at bargaining tables and in the country’s legislatures. We heard from staff about some of the tools they would like to have to be able to better assist locals, especially with financial administration.

One big concern is that legislation like the federal Bill C-377 and Saskatchewan’s Bill 85 could make it more difficult to find members willing to take on the role of local secretary-treasurer. Last week, I had the honour of attending the CUPE Saskatchewan convention, where I launched the special session for local treasurers and trustees, which will take place at every division convention as a breakfast, lunch or evening gathering.

Our staff in Finance and Administration have developed some new tools to help treasurers do their job and make it easier for trustees to do theirs. The electronic ledger is a key resource. Staff in both Finance and Administration and Union Development will be ready to prepare training materials when we know what any new legislation will require our locals to produce.

I look forward to meeting with more local union financial officers at upcoming division conventions.

Any of our locals who face tough bargaining can have confidence that the National union has their backs. While we must continue to be strategic and “fight smart,” with our National Strike Fund at more than $62 million there is no reason for any members to feel backed into a corner by the employer’s demand for concessions. It is evident that locals are thinking strategically and planning campaigns to protect jobs and services by the number of requests for cost-shared campaigns coming to this NEB meeting. Spending in this area was well over budget in 2012. We must support local campaigns but also need to do it within the budget we have, which is slightly increased over last year.

Overall, finances at the end of the last quarter of 2012 were in good shape, with revenues higher than anticipated at the same time as expenditures went over budget. In this report, we introduce a new method of reporting arrears that makes it easier to compare quarter over quarter.