Regional Executive Vice-President
Prairie Region Council January 2017
This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting.
I wish all of you a happy new year and look forward to continuing our work together in 2017. The new year brings new hope for an expeditious and equitable resolution to Treasury Board bargaining, fairness and respect for the workers in Churchill and Vegreville, and tangible achievements for child care in Canada.
We must continue to keep a watchful eye on our governments—both provincially and federally—to ensure labour laws are respected, health and safety is preserved, and all Canadians are valued.
The deadline to register for delegate subsidies and to submit resolutions for the 2017 Prairie Region Convention was December 8, 2016.
At that time, there were 294 delegates registered. Additionally, the following were registered at the time of deadline but not eligible for subsidies: 25 alternates, 21 observers, and 6 guests.
We also received 42 resolutions, including 26 from committees and area councils, 11 from locals, and 5 from PRC. All resolutions were submitted to the Executive Office for vetting by Sister Robyn Benson. Our convention resolutions committees will meet on January 21 and 22, 2017, following our regular PRC meeting.
The 7th Triennial Convention of the PSAC Prairie Region will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at the Fairmont Winnipeg beginning Friday, April 21, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. and concluding Sunday, April 23, at 12:30 p.m.
On October 27, 2016, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada employees at the Vegreville Case Processing Centre were shocked to learn that the federal government plans to close their processing centre in Vegreville and relocate it to Edmonton by the end of 2018. Approximately 280 employees work in the centre, processing temporary and permanent residency applications, work permits and student permits. The employees represent approximately five percent of the population of Vegreville, a community approximately 100 km outside of Edmonton.
The closure of the Immigration Centre will have a devastating impact on the entire Vegreville community, and PSAC/CEIU are doing everything we can to stop it. We convened a steering committee consisting of local representatives and union leaders to help guide our planning and to ensure we are strategic and effective in our efforts. Sister Benson immediately sent a letter to Minister John McCallum urging him to put a stop to the plan to move the processing centre. We also launched an online action so PSAC members and Canadians can show their support. To find out more about the campaign and how you can support this rural Alberta town and the workers affected, visit respectvegreville.ca or “Respect Vegreville” on Facebook.
We also held a community forum on December 18. More than 400 people crowded into the Vegreville Social Centre to show their support and voice their concerns over the closure of the Vegreville Immigration Centre. Attendees asked questions, shared their concerns, and added their voice to the call for the government to Respect Vegreville and reverse their decision. Hundreds of letters were signed to be delivered to Minister McCallum and local MPs, as well as petitions from local politicians.
I’d like to thank all those that attended, as well as those that participated in the panel discussion, including: Myron Hayduk, Mayor, Vegreville; Shannon Stubbs, Conservative MP, Lakeland; Jessica Littlewood, NDP MLA, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville; Chris Aylward, National Vice-President, PSAC; and Michelle Henderson, Campaign Lead, CEIU.
A tentative agreement between PSAC and Treasury Board has been reached for the PA table, covering over 68,000 federal public service workers. The deal includes significant breakthroughs on “common issues,” such as sick leave and workforce adjustment, the details of which were hammered out by the common issues committee.
The issues agreed to between the employer and the common issues committee, composed of members from all five Treasury Board tables, will need to be accepted by each specific table. PA is the first table to formally accept the work of the common issues committee, which covers sick leave and the workforce adjustment appendix.
I’d like to thank all of our bargaining team members for their dedication to securing a fair collective agreement, and to all PSAC members for the continued support of our bargaining teams.
On October 31, PSAC members across the Prairies participated in workplace actions to support our bargaining team members, keep up the pressure, and call on this government to fix the Phoenix pay system. For a full list of activities and photos from the events, visit the PSAC Prairies website or Facebook page.
SUPPORT OUR PORT
The fight to protect our port continues. On November 9, I presented to the Manitoba Federal Liberal caucus to discuss the issue of Churchill as well as other issues under federal jurisdiction such as Phoenix and the relocation of the Vegreville CPC. In December, employees of the Port of Churchill visited Parliament Hill to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau to save the port by converting the Port of Churchill into a Port Authority under federal jurisdiction. The group posed for a photo that read, “No Christmas for Churchill – Save Our Port.”
I was honoured to join the workers, alongside Niki Ashton (MP, Churchill—Keewatinook Aski) and Teresa Eschuk (Regional Vice-President, UCTE Prairies/North), as we met with several MPs and staff from all parties and attended Question Period.
Immediately following our action on The Hill, we received a call from MP Jim Carr to discuss the issue, hear our concerns, and provide us with updates. After repeated e-mails and phone messages went ignored, and with little-to-no action from the government, I am certain that our very public efforts forced them to finally respond. I am very proud of the workers for sharing their stories and standing up to the employer.
Minister Judy Foote has admitted that 700 compensation advisors should not have been laid off before the Phoenix launch, saying savings were sought at the expense of employees. She also acknowledged that many good ideas on how to fix Phoenix have come from union members.
The government has confirmed that it is two months— or 200,000 cases—behind in processing “pay transactions” under the new Phoenix pay system. This means difficult financial consequences for some PSAC members. They also have no date for when the system will be fixed. We continue to meet with department managers to raise issues of concern and to advocate for priority 1 cases.
On October 28, the Saskatchewan government introduced Bill 40 which changes the definition of privatization regarding crown corporations. As our members at the Casino Regina are part of the crown corporation Sask. Liquor and Gaming Authority, we are very concerned and have been meeting with other unions and the SFL to participate in any campaigns to oppose privatization of Sask. crowns.
On November 1, I presented to the Manitoba government's Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development to submit PSAC's position on Bill 7: The Labour Relations Amendment Act. At its core, Bill 7 is not about protecting workers’ democratic rights. Rather, it is directly aimed at expanding the ability of employers to interfere in the process. This legislation’s purpose is to make it more difficult for workers to exercise their legal right to unionize and depress the rate of unionization in Manitoba. The full submission can be found on the PSAC Prairies website.
On December 9, I attended a press conference at the Manitoba Legislature with MP Niki Ashton, MLA Rob Altemeyer and representatives from Manitoba fishers regarding the provincial government’s decision to pull out of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp. PSAC/UEW represents the engineers at the FFMC processing centre in Winnipeg an there is concern regarding the viability of the plant should Manitoba fishers no longer use the facility.
The PSAC Prairie Region 2016–2018 Education Plan was developed by the Prairie Region Council Education Committee in consultation with PSAC Prairies leaders, stewards, active union members, and regional office staff.
The goals of the plan are to: increase our union presence in the workplace in order to protect and support our members’ rights; build stronger locals/branches; and provide opportunities for members to develop their knowledge, skills and abilities on important union issues.
Since 2017 is the year of the Prairie Region Convention and all the component conventions, we will offer convention preparation and convention procedures courses for members throughout the region. We will also launch “The Steward Series”, a new series of 18 two-to-three–hour workshops on various topics, including mental health, working through conflict, and building our union.
Bargaining continues with the Winnipeg Protective Services Officers at the Royal Canadian Mint. With pay and vacation dealt with in the last round in November, we expect a deal in the near future for their first collective agreement. The next round is scheduled for January 12, 2017.
Employees at the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development are still pushing for improved vacation allocation language and wages, and continue to fight against concessions. We’re looking at dates for the next round in the new year.
Bargaining continues at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights with the of precarious work as a priority for this round of bargaining.
Bargaining is underway at the University of Winnipeg Academic Capacity sector and Research Assistant unit for first collective agreements. Bargaining team has been elected and demands are being prepared at Brandon University. Bargaining at the University of Saskatchewan is underway for a first collective agreement and we will be starting the process early this year to elect a team for the U of S Post Doc unit that was just recently certified.
Several collective agreements expired on December 31, 2016, including the SRG Security Resource Group, Edmonton Airport GBU and Casino Regina. Notice to bargain has been issued and we will meet with bargaining teams in January. We expect to exchange with employers in February. Also up for bargaining in 2017 will be the Calgary Airport Authority and Deer Lodge Centre.
On December 9/16, the Board issued a bargaining certificate for approximately 30 members at the Winnipeg Airport in its WASCO subsidiary/proxy and a company called Bouygues Energies and Services Canada Limited ("ByESC" ), all of which are operating as a joint venture called "ByWA" (which is not a legal entity.) This joint venture is now operating the Airport Operations Centre, the Baggage Operations Centre and the Pass Office in positions formerly held by PSAC/UCTE members.
The federal government has announced its commitment to banning asbestos and asbestos-containing products by 2018. PSAC has been calling on the federal government to ban the import, export and manufacturing of asbestos for years. The federal government will create new regulations to ban asbestos, establish new federal workplace health and safety rules, and enhance the registry for federally owned buildings.
We’re celebrating this decision in loving memory of our brother Howard Willems, who passed away on November 8, 2012. While battling a vicious occupational disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, Howard successfully lobbied for the introduction of legislation, known as Howard’s Law, requiring all buildings in Saskatchewan containing asbestos to be reported in a public registry. This is a long-awaited decision and a victory for all workers.
As I’m sure many of you have already heard, we lost a dear friend in November with the passing of Judy Shannon. So many of us have worked with Judy over the years. She was a passionate educator, dedicated activist and an exceptional regional education officer. Judy had been with PSAC since before I got involved as an activist and through her support, coaching and friendship I was able to grow within the union. She didn’t just educate; she built activists. And our union is better for her unwavering commitment to quality education. She will be deeply missed.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies