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What is the special levy?

CUPE’s Constitution states that if the balance in the National Defence Fund drops below $5 million, there will automatically be an increase in the per capita paid to CUPE National. This special levy is paid directly to the National Defence Fund.

Why is the special levy being applied?

We’re doing this so that no CUPE member will ever have to go without strike pay.

How much will the special levy cost locals?

For the average CUPE local, the levy will cost about one dollar per member per month.

Who decided to apply the special levy?

The special levy is triggered automatically when the balance in the National Defence Fund falls under $5 million.

The National Executive Board met on March 11, 1999 and gave their unanimous support to the following motion:

“That the National Executive Board agree to support enacting Article 14.1 (d)iii of the National Constitution when the National Defence Fund falls below $5 million.”

Why does the Constitution provide for a special levy?

In 1981 and 1982, thousands of CUPE members in communities across the country were forced to take strike action to defend their jobs and improve wages and working conditions. As a result, the National Defence Fund was depleted and CUPE could not pay strike benefits to sisters and brothers on the line.

A special convention was held in 1982. Delegates to convention were determined that this should never happen again; that every CUPE member walking a picket line should be guaranteed strike pay. So they amended the Constitution to introduce a special levy that remained in place until the National Defence Fund reached $10 million. Then, at the 1985 convention, delegates amended the Constitution again to provide an automatic assessment of .04% if the Defence Fund were to fall below $5 million.

This is the first time that the automatic assessment has come into effect.

Is this a permanent levy?

No, it is a temporary measure until the balance in the National Defence Fund reaches $10 million. Because we can’t predict how many strikes may arise over the course of the coming months, it’s not possible to say how long the special levy will apply.

Why has the balance in the National Defence Fund fallen under $5 million?

In the second week of March 1999, there were eight locals on strike representing 17,000 members. The strike pay for these members for one week amounted to $3.4 million plus $300,000 for group insurance benefits, for a total of $3.7 million in one week.

This represents a level of strike benefits without precedent in the history of CUPE. In fact, we paid out almost as much in one week as we did in all of 1998 ($4.9 million).

With the payment of these strike benefits, the balance in the National Defence Fund fell below $5 million.

Why has demand on the National Defence Fund increased?

Employers are taking an increasingly aggressive stand at the bargaining table, demanding concessions and threatening job security. At the same time, our members are fighting to protect their jobs and make up for lost purchasing power after many years of wage freezes and rollbacks.

As a result there are more locals on strike. And with restructuring of public services, more of these locals are large locals. When a very large local takes strike action, the demands on the Defence Fund are huge.

These same conditions mean that more locals and divisions are launching fightback and strike aversion campaigns that are also funded from the National Defence Fund.

Now that several big strikes have been settled, is the special levy still required?

Yes. Once the special levy has been triggered, the Constitution requires that it be applied until the balance in the National Defence Fund reaches $10 million.

How do we fund our National Defence Fund?

10% of the per capita contributions from locals to CUPE National are allocated to the National Defence Fund. This generates approximately $10.8 million annually.

What do we fund from our National Defence Fund?

CUPE pays strike benefits and group insurance benefits for striking members from the National Defence Fund. In addition, the union pays legal costs for precedent-setting arbitration cases, strike aversion campaigns, cost-shared fightback campaigns and major organizing drives from the Defence Fund.

Why is our National Defence Fund not used solely for strike support?

Strikes are one of our most important ways of defending workers’ interests but they’re not the only means. CUPE has been very successful in protecting our members and averting strikes through strong fightback campaigns and legal action.

That said, over the past year the funding for a number of programs has been shifted to the General Fund from the Defence Fund in order to reduce the pressure on the Defence Fund. In the coming year, we will consider further measures to restore the health of the Defence Fund.

What strike benefits does CUPE pay?

In 1998, CUPE increased its level of strike pay to $200 per week. Members are eligible to collect strike pay starting on the tenth day of a strike. The National Defence Fund also covers the cost of group insurance benefits from day one of strike action. As well, CUPE pays two additional days’ strike pay at the end of a strike to help members meet expenses until their first pay.

How will CUPE cover strike benefits until the health of the National Defence Fund is restored?

CUPE is committed to ensure that any local that takes strike action receives the full support of the National Union and that every member eligible to receive strike pay receives their $200 weekly.

To meet this obligation, the union is prepared to call upon the support and solidarity of other unions and to take loans as required.

Is CUPE broke?

No. As a result of the increased per capita approved at the last National Convention, CUPE’s General Fund - which covers services and programs - fully funds the union’s operating expenses.

Why do we need a strong National Defence Fund?

The strength of a union is measured by the solidarity of its members, not the size of its National Defence Fund. At the same time, one of the most concrete and important expressions of that solidarity is the commitment of rank-and-file members to support their sisters and brothers on the front line, defending their jobs and fighting for justice and improved wages and working conditions.

There are unions that have a larger Defence Fund than CUPE. But CUPE has demonstrated its collective commitment to put its money where its members’ interests lie, paying strike benefits, funding legal challenges, mobilizing fightback campaigns and organizing new members.

Our priority has been to ensure that the National Union is there to support any local or member that is under attack. And we’ve committed massive resources to fight these battles.

Every day the pressure on our members increases - to accept cutbacks and concessions, to privatize services and to ignore discrimination, harassment and safety hazards.

To defend our members and to send a clear message to governments and employers that we will settle for nothing less than justice, we need a strong National Defense Fund.

No CUPE member can ever be left without the support of the National Union. An injury to one is an injury to all.

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