REPORT OF THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT, PRAIRIES
TO THE NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS
October 4-7, 2016
This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting in June.
POLITICAL ACTION & CAMPAIGNS
PORT OF CHURCHILL & NORTHERN MANITOBA
Workers at the Port of Churchill (PSAC/UCTE members) were called in to the lunchroom on Monday, July 25th with no prior warning and advised by OmniTrax Canada and advised that they were cancelling the 2016 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. Of special note, the CEO of OmniTrax Canada is Merv Tweed, former Conservative MP for Brandon.
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% of the town’s population. The privatization of the port was a complete failure, so we are calling on the Trudeau Liberals to put the Port into public ownership as a Port Authority.
To date, we have been in contact with MP Niki Ashton (NDP), MLA Judy Klassen (Liberal) and MLA Tom Lindsey (NDP Labour Critic) and Churchill Mayor Michael Spence. We’ve also met with MP Sheri Benson, NDP Labour Critic, MP Daniel Blaikie (Elmwood-Transcona) and Cathy Sproule, Sask. MLA Opposition Critic for Agriculture. The federal Liberal MPs have all refused to meet with us—specifically Minister Jim Carr. Minister Carr has been tasked with “intelligence gathering” but was too busy to meet with PSAC representatives because he was busy meeting stakeholders. Apparently the Liberal caucus does not believe that workers are stakeholders in this scenario. This is yet another example of privatization (under the federal Liberals in the late 1990s) that has failed.
The Premier’s office put us to Minister Cliff Cullen but after repeated 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 that are being used all over Churchill. We are also in contact with the National Farmers Union and Canadian Wheat Board Alliance.
We have also joined with the local community to create a Facebook group for “Support Our Port.” Many of the affected workers are members of the group so any messages of support are greatly appreciated. For those Twitter activists, please use the #SupportOurPort hashtag.
We are also whole-heartedly supporting the federal petition from Niki Ashton’s office calling on the Feds to take back the port. You can sign the petition online by going to the Support Our Port Facebook page or by visiting Niki’s website.
SAVE OUR HOT SPRINGS
Its been several years since UNE and PSAC Prairies launched our Save the Hot Springs campaign against the Harper government’s decision to commercialize the 3 national Hot Springs (Jasper, Banff and Radium). At the launch, we met with First Nations leaders and held community townhalls in Jasper and Radium to raise awareness.
On Friday, Sept. 2nd, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada announced that the Agency would no longer be pursuing the concept of commercializing the 3 Hot Spring locations. This is a true victory for UNE, PSAC Prairies and all the members of the Parks locals that took action. Congratulations!
MANITOBA BILL 7
For many years, Manitoba has avoided major labour unrest or job actions. 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. I joined a full gallery of union members on June 14th to show our opposition to the Bill. In true PC fashion, even though the bill was on the order paper, the PC’s didn’t introduce the bill until the following day.
Allowing workplaces where a majority of employees have freely declared they want to join a union by signing a union card to apply for fast-tracked certification eliminates the temptation for employers to intimidate their workers. The Pallister government’s changes to the union certification rules are fixing a problem that just doesn’t exist, and only makes it harder for everyday Manitobans to join a union.
Apart from the Port of Churchill, our major focus has been the Phoenix pay system and how it continues to fail our members. We held a webinar for members in the Prairies attended by over 75 members, updating them about Phoenix and the work that we have been doing. Thanks go to our guest speakers, Brother Chris Aylward and Sister Donna Lackie for being available to answers questions. Regional media coverage of the debacle and our efforts has been solid.
On behalf of PSAC members, I sent a letter to every United Way in the Prairies advising that due to the failures of Phoenix, they should prepare for lower donations and should also ensure that donors are aware of other options for giving outside of the government payroll system. The issue was also discussed with MP Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West) who is the federal NDP Labour critic.
We had a table on APTN Live Aboriginal Day at the Forks on June 25th, connecting with the community and handing out our exclusively designed Idle No More pins to the public along with other materials.
National PSAC President Robyn Benson and I were very happy to join a contingent of PSAC members and family at the first-ever Steinbach Pride rally and march. While Federal Conservative MP Ted Falk, among others, declined to participate in this historic march over 3,000 other people came to show their support.
I joined CUPW members at 2 demos along with several PSAC members in support of CUPW during their difficult round of collective bargaining.
I joined the MGEU picket line several times in solidarity with members of the MacDonald Youth Services Crisis Stabilization Local 221 in August, as the Pallister PCs refuse to make reasonable changes for workers. During a break from meetings on the Churchill issue, Sister Christine Collins (UCTE National President) and Sister Teresa Eschuk (UCTE RVP Prairies) joined me in visiting the picket line.
COMMITTEES IN ACTION
Regional Women’s Committees
The Winnipeg RWC met in June to debrief the prairies RWC conference. They have made plans to have speakers for their fall meetings to discuss priorities going forward, and continue to receive large scale donations of personal items from community organizations in support of women's shelters. Winnipeg sisters will be active in the Labour Day activities leafleting and canvassing on behalf of child care.
The Calgary RWC, together with Calgary Area Council and Human Rights Committee, will participate in the Labour Day BBQ at Olympic Plaza. They are serving cake; giving out prizes for people who spin the wheel; and discussing what Labour Day means to members of PSAC with the public.
In Regina, sisters attended the first planning meeting for the Sisters In Spirit Candlelight Vigil planned for October. Sisters also participated in decorating and walking with the PSAC float/truck for the Lethbridge Whoop Days Parade, and will have a presence at the Labour Day picnic.
In Edmonton, the RWC is preparing for a seminar in December that will bring together Sisters from Northern Alberta to move forward on an agenda to address domestic violence and access to child care.
Human Rights Committees
The Winnipeg HRC committee participated in a number of activities over the summer. There was a higher than normal member turnout for the Winnipeg Pride Parade on June 5, which was really inspiring. On June 25th, the committee set up an information tent at the Aboriginal Day Festival held at the Forks. On July 9th, members travelled to Steinbach (about an hour to the East of Winnipeg) to participate in the first ever, groundbreaking Pride March in conservative Steinbach, Manitoba. The committee is now preparing for fall activities.
The Winnipeg AC met in June and are in the planning stages for a large presence at the Labour Day Event on September 5, hosted by the Winnipeg and District Labour Council.. The Area Council supported the Human Rights Committee and participated in the Winnipeg and Steinbach Pride parade and helped with the June 8th day of action. They are currently actively planning their participation in upcoming Labour day events.
The Prince Albert and District Area Council is planning a townhall meeting on Sept. 28th to both showcase the opportunities for locals to participate in political action in their community but also around the issues of the Phoenix pay system and bargaining. REVP Marianne Hladun and Brother Chris Aylward will be attending along with FB bargaining team member, Sister Brea Lewis.
The Lethbridge Area Council is continuing their work and support of community garden and food bank projects, including the tomato project, a young chef program and completing major irrigation on the raised beds of the community garden.
Regional Aboriginal People’s Circle
Several RAPC members participated in the Waskewetohta Aboriginal Conference in Winnipeg in April. In conjunction with NAPC, RAPC members have been supporting protest actions around the Husky energy oil spill in the North Sask. River.
PSAC Prairies facilitated several conference calls for community activists from Idle No More, Manitoba Grand Council, Council of Canadians and NAPC and the Prairie Region Council to discuss the impact of the oil spill on First Nations communities along the river. NAPC and PSAC Prairies made a donation to facilitate an independent third party assessment of the environmental and ecological damage caused from the oil spill.
We have also affirmed our support for the Kisiskatchewan Water Alliance which formed following the spill.
COURSES AND CONFERENCES
The inaugural Prairies Racially Visible Conference will be held September 9-11, 2016, in Winnipeg and the Prairies Regional Women’s Conference will be held June 10-12, 2016, in Winnipeg. Elected committee members and staff have been working hard to make these a success.
VICTORIES, BARGAINING UPDATES - MANITOBA
- UTE members took to the streets outside their workplaces across the Prairies to support their bargaining team and no doubt a result of the support of the full membership, a tentative agreement has been reached and ratification votes are scheduled throughout the region.
- Firefighters at the Winnipeg Airport Authority ratified a new collective agreement on August 10th.
- The Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development collective agreement expired on August 7, 2015. A June negotiating round was postponed and we are now looking at September 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.
- We requested conciliation for UNDE Local 40800 members at ATCO in Moose Jaw. Due to timelines, we will be proceeding to mediation with the Conciliation Officer mid-October. A strike vote will be held prior to the mediation dates. Myself along with Brother John Maclennan (UNDE Nat. President), Sister Mona Simcoe (UNDE RVP Sask/Manitoba) and negotiator Sister Dolly Abblit attended a membership meeting on Sept. 6th
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies
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