Regional Executive Vice-President
Prairie Region Council November 2016
This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting.
SUPPORT OUR PORT
On July 25, OmniTrax Canada advised UCTE members working at the Port of Churchill that they were cancelling the grain shipping season and workers currently on staff would be laid off effective August 8. Workers not yet called in for the season were notified they would not be called back. And who’s responsible for the decision? Former Brandon––Souris Conservative MP Merv Tweed was the President of OmniTrax Canada. It’s obvious he inherited the same management style as his former boss, Stephen Harper, with disdain for workers’ rights and disregard for the community.
Together with UCTE, we have been working hard for immediate solutions to address this crisis for the community of Churchill. Our members make up roughly 10 percent of the town’s population. The privatization of the port was a complete failure, so we are calling on the federal government to maintain the facility as a port authority.
To date, we have been in contact with Niki Ashton (NDP MP, Churchill—Keewatinook), Judy Klassen (Liberal MLA, Keewatinook), Labour Critic Tom Lindsey (NDP MLA, Flin Flon) and Churchill Mayor Michael Spence. We’ve also met with Labour Critic Sheri Benson (NDP MP, Saskatoon West), Daniel Blaikie (NDP MP, Elmwood—Transcona) and Environment & Agriculture Critic Cathy Sproule (NDP MLA, Saskatoon Nutana).
Federal Liberal MPs have all refused to meet with us—specifically, Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources. Minister Carr has been tasked with “intelligence gathering,” but was too busy to meet with PSAC representatives because he was meeting with “stakeholders.” Apparently the Liberal caucus does not believe that workers are stakeholders too. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s office directed us to Cliff Cullen, Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade (PC MLA, Spruce Woods), but after repeated unreturned calls and a tentative meeting date that was cancelled, they have not returned requests to meet.
PSAC and UCTE have launched a campaign to #SupportOurPort, including window signs and buttons as a show of support and they are being used all over Churchill. We are also in contact with the National Farmers Union and Canadian Wheat Board Alliance. Our campaign has gained national attention in the House of Commons and the media.
We have also joined with the local community to create a Facebook group called “Support Our Port.” Many of the affected workers are members of the group, so I encourage you to join the group, sign the petition calling on the Feds to take back the port, and leave messages of support. You can also use the #SupportOurPort hashtag on Twitter to show your solidarity.
The Phoenix pay system fiasco continues to impact our members from coast to coast. The federal government has now confirmed it will not meet its October 31 deadline to clear the backlog of 80,000 cases that had accumulated as of June, due to the problems caused by the implementation of the Phoenix pay system. This has been a major priority for PSAC in the Prairies and across the country since the summer.
We held a webinar for members in the Prairies, attended by over 75 members. I want to thank all those who attended, and our guest speakers, Brother Chris Aylward and Sister Donna Lackie, for being available to answer questions. I also want to thank all the members who have been active on this issue, both online and in their workplaces, including USGE members who held an action outside the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert on September 15.
SAVE OUR HOT SPRINGS
It has been several years since we launched our Save the Hot Springs campaign with UNE. The campaign’s goal was to raise public awareness about the Harper government’s decision to commercialize three national Hot Springs (Jasper, Banff and Radium), and ultimately prevent the privatization. During the campaign, we met with First Nations leaders and held community town halls in Jasper and Radium.
On September 2, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada announced that the Agency would no longer pursue the privatization of the Canadian Rockies Hot Springs. This is a true victory for all the members within our Parks locals that took action. Thank you for your hard work and commitment, and congratulations!
Provincial elections were held in Saskatchewan on April 4, 2016 and Manitoba on April 19, 2016. The re-election of the Sask Party under Brad Wall means that crown corporations remain at risk of privatization––despite a campaign promise that explicitly stated otherwise––and labour rights continue to be stomped on. Meanwhile, the election of the PCs under Brian Pallister in Manitoba is equally troubling, as Pallister has already publically embarked on a campaign to slash spending and open the door to privatization. We have been working with the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and the Manitoba Federation of Labour to build effective opposition.
The newly elected PC government under Brian Pallister campaigned on changes to the union certification rules. He kept his promise to big business and introduced Bill 7 in the Manitoba Legislature, the bill that would ban card check. It will make it harder for everyday Manitobans to join a union and opens the door to greater intimidation, bullying and harassment by employers.
I joined a full gallery of union members on June 14 to show our opposition to the bill. Even though the bill was on the order paper, the PC’s didn’t introduce it until the following day. The Pallister government’s changes to the union certification rules are fixing a problem that just doesn’t exist. Legislative Committee Hearings are expected any day now, providing us an opportunity to present our views on this anti-labour bill. PSAC is preparing a submission on behalf of our members under provincial jurisdiction and I expect to present to the committee on Oct. 27 or Nov. 1.
The Pallister government also announced in early August that they intend to pull out of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation board which will allow fishers in Manitoba to sell outside of the federal marketing board. I am currently working with UEW and UNIFOR to determine the impact to our members at FFMC and a political strategy to ensure the continued employment of our members.
CONFERENCES & EDUCATION
The inaugural Prairies Racially Visible Conference was held September 9-11, 2016 to much success. The goal was to discuss, strategize and mobilize on issues impacting racially visible members in their region, and we regard this first event as a real success.
The Prairies Regional Women’s Conference was held June 11-12, 2016. Sisters gathered from across the Prairies and our main objective was to have conference participants reach out and involve other members to build our regional women's committees and mobilize to contribute collectively to social change.
The PSAC Prairie Region also hosted the first Waskawetohta (Taking Action) Conference for First Nation, Inuit and Métis activists from April 22 to 24, 2016.
We hosted a webinar in Sept. for PRC members and Component National Officers on how the process works when grievances are forwarded to PSAC after final level and how best to prepare cases being submitted to G&A. A similar webinar will be scheduled for all members.
We will be hosting a Resolution Writing webinar for Prairie members on Nov. 8.
UTE members took to the streets outside their workplaces across the Prairies to support their bargaining team and—as a result of their actions and work at the bargaining table—a tentative agreement has been reached and ratification votes took place throughout the region into early October.
In other good news, firefighters at the Winnipeg Airport Authority ratified a new collective agreement on August 10. Meanwhile, the agreement at the Edmonton Airport expires December 31, 2016, as does the agreement at Casino Regina.
The Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development collective agreement expired on August 7, 2015. The bargaining team has met with the employer several times and exchanged proposals. The June round of bargaining was postponed and we’re currently looking at new dates.
Winnipeg Protective Services Officers at the Royal Canadian Mint are in negotiations. The Employer presented an economic offer on May 11, and we are now down to pay issues, with the next round scheduled for November 1 and 2.
Bargaining is underway at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Priority is being given to address systemic precarious work issues, particularly for front-of-house staff.
Negotiations are also underway at the University of Winnipeg with our academic, research and English Language Proficiency units. Negotiations continue at the University of Saskatchewan to achieve our first collective agreement.
Negotiations will be starting shortly at Brandon University and are currently underway at the Winnipeg Airport Authority – GBU.
Myself along with Brother John MacLennan (UNDE Nat. President), Sister Mona Simcoe (UNDE RVP Sask/Manitoba) and negotiator Sister Dolly Ablitt attended a membership meeting on September 6 for UNDE Local 40800 in Moose Jaw. We had requested conciliation but due to timelines, we proceeded to mediation with the Conciliation Officer in mid-October. A strike vote was held prior to the mediation dates and the members provided a strong strike mandate for the team as they went into mediation. A tentative agreement was reached through the mediation process and a ratification vote is being scheduled.
The last National Board of Directors meeting took place in September. Our major focus has been the #FixPhoenix campaign, which has had incredible traction in the media and public eye. The national website has a dedicated section to fix Phoenix with regular updates and an online letter submission form that I would encourage all of you to complete.
Our other major focus has been bargaining. I am sure we can all agree that it’s disheartening to see the Liberals are maintaining Harper’s position at the bargaining table. In response, we’ve launched a series of radio and print ads appealing directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make good on his word to support public service workers.
Two other areas of national focus are our new Thirsty for Justice campaign and our support for proportional representation. I have been working with Idle No More in Saskatchewan, and an independent analysis of the Husky oil spill was recently released, which I’m happy to say the PSAC is backing. On proportional representation, the PSAC has joined the Canadian Labour Congress, other unions and Fair Vote Canada to form the Every Voter Counts Alliance. Adopting a PR system is the way to achieve electoral fairness and we support it.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies