Lines Tour to Colombia
Worker-to-worker solidarity exchanges are an important way to strengthen and develop solidarity between workers in the global north and south. Exchanges help strengthen our base of union activists prepared to fight against privatization and push for quality public services and our right to collectively organize.
CUPE participated in a 10 day solidarity tour, dubbed the Front Lines Tour, to Colombia in March 2013. This Front Lines Initiative is a joint project of four national public sector unions – the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), and CUPE, in collaboration with CoDevelopment Canada (CoDev).
This initiative began in 2004 with the primary purpose to join forces with our sister unions in Colombia to fight against privatization of public services with a view to exchange strategies, and to strengthen and defend human and labour rights. Throughout the tour in Colombia the delegation met and shared experiences with organizations on the front lines of the social and labour movements in the country, in the public and private sectors, including our Colombian partners NOMADESC, the Association for Social Research and Action, and SINTRACUAVALLE, a water sector union.
Amnesty International has reported that at least 40 human rights defenders and community leaders were killed in 2012, along with 20 trade union members. Indigenous communities have had at least 84 activists murdered, including 21 leaders, according to the National Indigenous Organization (ONIC) of Colombia. The current Santos government, elected in 2010, has made friendly overtures beyond its borders to other right-wing governments and the global corporate community. It makes promises of market access and economic opportunity, while portraying itself as a champion of human rights, despite the fact that human and labour rights violations continue with impunity.
Threats of privatization, union busting and violence continue in Colombia. Our partners voiced concern that their struggles will become invisible as the Santos government embarks on a public relations campaign to improve the image of Colombia in the eyes of the international community. CUPE will continue to support our sisters and brothers in Colombia.
CUPE Bargaining Conference
CUPE’s first National Bargaining Conference in February 2013 was an overwhelming success with more than 1,000 members in attendance. Over the course of three days, members, staff, activists and leaders from across the country shared strategies and learned from each other about how best to tackle bargaining challenges in Canada today.
The global character of our struggle was highlighted in presentations by several speakers, including Paul Booth from the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSME) in the United States and Richard Pond from the European Federation of Public Sector Unions (EPSU). Booth spoke about the attack on pensions in the US and their recent struggle against anti-union legislation. Pond spoke about the European workers’ experience resisting budget cuts and job loss in the public sector, and the imposition of International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies on the people.
Speakers Deena Ladd from Toronto’s Workers’ Action Centre and Joey Calugay from Montreal’s Immigrant Workers Center (IWC) spoke about the increasing exploitation of temporary foreign workers in Canada. There was widespread recognition that the same economic and political factors that lead to the exploitation of migrant workers are responsible for the struggles we face at the bargaining table, for the privatization of our public services and the restrictive austerity measures we experience in Canada and around the world.