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School board locals are preparing for a hearing at the Labour Relations Board on the question of essential services. School boards are requesting a large number of employees be designated as essential while our locals are taking the position that there is no need for essential employees in the school board sector.


NDP leader and former CUPE staff representative Robert Chisholm surprised his many supporters when he announced his decision to resign as party leader. After a difficult election campaign battle, Robert has chosen to devote more time to his young family. CUPE members from Nova Scotia and across the country thank him for his years of solid support and wish him all the best in the future.


CUPE members are preparing for another political campaign after defeating the plan to build a PPP hospital in Summerside. The issue emerging now is the consideration by some hospitals in the province to introduce re-thermalized food. The government has yet to provide any assurances to the people of PEI, and a lobbying campaign is being developed.


CUPE New Brunswick continues to press the government for action on the status of casual workers. Representatives of CUPE New Brunswick met with both the Ministers of Labour and Finance on November 9. A brief prepared for the meeting with the ministers was sent to all members of the provincial legislature in order to facilitiate opposition pressure. CUPE New Brunswick is pressing for amendments to the Public Service Labour Relations Act to allow casuals to have the right to join a union. A complaint has been filed by CUPE with the International Labour Organization, claiming that the present law violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


CUPE Quebec uncovered a troubling health care scandal when members started to question strange staffing practices in the operating room at a Montreal area hospital last month. It was revealed that the hospital was allowing a private company to use their operating rooms for a fee. The hospital allowed an American for-profit corporation to perform operations to test a new medical procedure on women that hasnt yet been approved by health authorities. The hospital leased out the space on weekends and after hours, while operating room staff were paid in cash in American funds. Meanwhile, waiting times for surgery in Quebec are getting longer but it appears that cash-strapped hospitals are looking for new ways to earn money.


Just when you think things in Mike Harris Ontario are bad, they get worse. The Harris government recently revealed its plans to chop another $450 million from provincial spending which will lead to further cuts in public serrvice and increase the threat of more privatization. The government is also talking about allowing private universities to operate in Ontario. At the same time the provincial auditor was sharply critical of the Harris regime in his report when he pointed out that contracting out highway maintenance has been more costly than keeping it public. The auditors report is another in a series of auditors reports across the country that agree with arguments CUPE is making in our fight against privatization.


CUPE members in Manitoba worked hard to elect an NDP government on September 21 and it has paid off big time. The draconian workfare legislation passed by the previous Tory government was overturned by the NDP government when they refused to proclaim the Bill into law. The new government also turfed the private sector from public schools when it rescinded contracts for the Youth News Network. A private corporation, Athena Educational Partners, had contracts with many school boards to provide computers and TVs in the classroom in exchange for broadcasting the youth news program complete with corporate advertising. These decisive acts by the new government in the first weeks of its mandate provide a positive sign to public sector workers across the province.


The Saskatchewan Division is fighting the provincial governments review of the tax system. A special committee appointed by the Minister of Finance is recommending that the province cut personal income taxes by 30 per cent and raise provincial sales tax. The report flies in the face of progressive tax reform and would mean an annual loss of $240 million in provincial revenues. The Division has pointed out that a drop in revenues of the magnitude being contemplated is the equivalent of eliminating the entire highways budget, abolishing operating grants to universities and technical institutions or slashing one-third of the health acute care budget. The government should be focusing on tax relief from the 2% flat tax and relief for low-income earners rather than posing this kind of threat to public services.


CUPE Alberta was quick off the mark when Premier Ralph Klein announced his plan to allow regional health authorities to contract out surgical procedures to private hospitals, pointing out through several media interviews, that the Klein government is responsible for long waiting times for surgery. CUPE called on the Klein government to re-open the hospitals and hospital beds he has already shut-down, re-build the Calgary hospital he blew-up and hire back the thousands of health care workers he fired through his government funding cuts. Work is underway to launch a province-wide campaign against Kleins plans. CUPE has beaten Klein three times already on his privatization plans. Were gearing up to do it again, by mobilizing in Alberta and across the country to save Medicare.


A doctors office faced with a patient who needed immediate transport to the hospital tried calling 911 five times last Thursday and continued to receive the Telus message “all circuits are busy, try your call again later.” Finally a call was placed to the BC Ambulance Services non-emergency number and an ambulance was dispatched immediately. Paramedics at Local 873 have been warning that there are serious problems with the E-Comm system of emergency dispatch for some months.