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As part of the Strategic Directions process, which formed the basis of a week-long debate and discussion in Quebec City, our bargaining strength was clearly identified as forming the backbone of what we do as a union.

The process was a radical departure from previous CUPE conventions, designed to form an over-arching framework to set CUPEs course for the coming two years. By weeks end, convention had created a strategic plan that will, quite literally, direct the work of all parts of CUPE.

The plan acknowledged some of the new realities of public sector bargaining, for instance:

  • The attacks on our members jobs and the services they provide are more targeted than ever governments, employers and the private sector now seem to be going after specific services and job classifications. By claiming that CUPE members perform non-core services, they say it doesnt really matter if our work is handed over to the private sector.
  • Specific collective agreement protections are also being targeted, such as job security provisions and other barriers to contracting out and privatization.
  • Perhaps most disturbingly, many employers are simply waiting for right-wing governments to legislate away our rights our right to strike, our right to free and full collective bargaining, and more.

Sectoral strategic plans

Defending our collective bargaining rights in the face of these new realities will require us to adopt equally new and creative responses.

Each CUPE sector in every province will develop a strategic plan that has as its goal regaining union and worker power. As we all know from experience, what works in one sector wont necessarily work in another.

One of our primary goals will be to identify initiatives that will win membership support for consolidation and/or co-ordination of bargaining. These bargaining structures will have sufficient resources to ensure they can work effectively.

CUPE Solidarity Pacts

To ensure the success of this new approach, CUPE will provide tools and assistance so that local unions can win rank and file support for a CUPE Solidarity Pact. These pacts will commit CUPE locals to take action in direct support of any other CUPE local that is under attack.

Over the last few years, we have all seen examples of small locals, with limited bargaining power, being picked off by employers or governments. We cant let this continue to happen.

Where they exist, CUPE district councils will be called upon to play a leadership role in coordinating strike support at the community level and provincial divisions will continue to do the same at the provincial level.

National membership survey

The Strategic Directions also commit CUPE to carrying out a national survey of our members to identify some union-wide bargaining objectives and priorities.

The survey, and the process for carrying it out, will be designed in such a way that it takes into account the full diversity of our members concerns and literacy levels.

These bargaining priorities will then be heavily promoted through an internal campaign aimed at every bargaining unit or council in CUPE.

Strengthening district councils

With an expanded role for CUPE district councils being key to our strategic plan for the next two years, the National Executive Board will develop a plan, in consultation with all district councils, to strengthen their financial base and promote affiliations.

John McCracken