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Sisters and Brothers:

As 2011 winds down, we take the opportunity to thank all CUPE activists and staff for your hard work and dedication to our over 615,000 members throughout this past year.

The past year was one of accomplishments and challenges.

We were all energized by the tremendous breakthrough of federal New Democrats under the leadership of Jack Layton, with over 100 seats and official opposition status. This was of course tempered by the fact that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives gained a majority government promising us four long years of restraint and attacks on public services. 

And of course, there was the tragic loss of Brother Jack. While remembering him at our recent national convention, it was hard not to imagine what could have been had we not lost him far too soon.

At the provincial level the NDP was re-elected for a fourth consecutive time in Manitoba, and our party improved its standing in both Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador. In each of these elections CUPE members offered themselves up as candidates and countless more volunteered their time, and for this we thank each and every one of you.

CUPE members were at hundreds of bargaining tables throughout 2011 in a very difficult bargaining environment. Some members also ended up on picket lines. With the support of all other CUPE members through our National Strike Fund, they achieved fair agreements on behalf of the members they represent.

The Harper government has not wasted time in asserting the force of their majority. They have abolished the long-gun registry and taken steps to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s single desk selling system despite the fact that a majority of Western grain farmers oppose this move. CUPE has also been a target, with the rights of our flight attendants at Air Canada trampled with unnecessary and unwarranted threats of back to work legislation. As well, all signs point to a restraint federal budget in 2012. We pledge our support to our PSAC sisters and brothers who are fighting back against these cutbacks.

Perhaps the most significant move this past year has been the global phenomenon known as the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has drawn much needed attention to the growing gap between the rich and the poor, here in Canada and around the world. 

For some 25 years real wages have been flat in Canada, while banks and corporations have seen their profits soar. The rich are truly getting richer while average workers wages are declining both at work and in terms of the social programs all citizens need and deserve. 

Our goal must be to align with all progressive forces and continue to resist an economy based on greed. We must stand up and defend the right of all workers to a living wage, decent pension and quality public services.     

The New Year promises to be a busy one for CUPE. Over half of our locals are at the bargaining table. We face an unprecedented attack on both our members and services in the City of Toronto and it is important that our entire union support our members in Canada’s largest city. 

Canada’s health care system is under threat as the Harper government seeks to reduce its financial commitment along with capping equalization payments. This will make our country a less equal place and we must join forces with all whom believe our public health care system and all public services are worth fighting for.

In closing, we pledge our national union’s support to all members and staff - at your bargaining tables and in your communities. The work CUPE members do day in and day out makes Canada a better place to live. We must re-dedicate ourselves to standing up for quality public services both here in our country and around the globe.

Best wishes to each of you for a peaceful holiday season and all the best in 2012, and thanks again for your incredible dedication to the important work of our union.

In solidarity,

Paul and Charles