Delegates spoke passionately in support of CUPE’s plan to defend free collective bargaining and fight attacks on public services and workers. From across the country many shared stories of program slashing, public sector wage freezes, concession demands and contract stripping.
In the current climate governments and employers are using the economic downturn as an excuse to demand concessions and cut services. And the most vulnerable workers – new immigrants, those with disabilities, those dealing with mental illness and those facing workplace bullying and harassment – are becoming more vulnerable.
There is strong support for effective sectoral and provincial bargaining structures to increase our bargaining strength in the face of anti-worker governments. And strengthening the capacity of our stewards and steward networks is critical if we are to defend our hard-fought agreements.
As a generation of activists retire, and new members take up the mantle, delegates recognize the need for new member education and mentoring programs.
Improving the Canada Pension Plan and defending defined benefit plans are also high on the agenda. Delegates also acknowledged the substantial numbers of CUPE members – in education, health care and community social services who cannot afford to join a workplace pension plan.
Links between the different elements of the Strategic Directions Program were also made. Defending our bargaining rights must go hand-in-hand with fighting privatization, working in coalitions, electing progressive governments, holding elected officials accountable, and supporting the progressive people that we elect.
In the midst of a serious discussion, Zully Trujillo of CUPE 2153 gave delegates a moment of levity and received a rousing response from the floor when she called for CUPE’s 600,000 strong membership to create our own CUPE political party.
Discussion on a Strategic Priority 3: Continuing the struggle will take place on Thursday morning.