REPORT OF THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT, PRAIRIES
TO THE NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS
October 17-20, 2017
This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting in June.
PRAIRIE REGION COUNCIL
On July 7–8 in Saskatoon, we held our first Prairie Region Council meeting since the Prairie Region Triennial Convention. It was a successful event that brought activists together from across the prairies. With over half of PRC members newly elected, the first day focused on orientation and a discussion of roles and responsibilities.
Dates were set for conference calls and for the face-to-face meeting in February 2018 which will also include a one day session with Prairies National Officers. The focus of the February meeting will be to start mobilizing to federal and provincial elections and strategies to increase engagement of members.
MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU
When Winnipeg members learned that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be in Winnipeg on July 29, an impromptu early morning info picket was set up outside the hotel where the PM was meeting with the Manitoba Premier, Brian Pallister. Following discussion with RCMP and PM security staff, I was invited into the hotel for a 5 minute face-to-face with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Brother Dave Clark, newly-elected National UCTE President also joined attended. Issues discussed included the UCTE 50600 Winnipeg Airport strike, the Vegreville CPC closure and the struggles and pain caused by the Phoenix pay system, and the urgency of a swift resolution to the closure of the Port of Churchill and OmniTrax’s refusal to repair the rail line to the community of Churchill. No commitments were made and the meeting. FYI, we took 10 minutes!
POLITICAL ACTION & CAMPAIGNS
WINNIPEG AIRPORT STRIKE
Approximately 150 hard-working duty managers, administrative workers, tradespersons, IT specialists, airfield maintenance workers and laborers at the Winnipeg Airport have been on strike at the Winnipeg Airport since July 24. They have been without a contract since June of 2016.
No one wants to be on strike. Our members know how much the Airport means to families. It means a lot to their families, too. That’s why this is so important to us. Airport workers deserve to be treated with respect. Instead, the Winnipeg Airport has praised our workers for the conduct on the line, while going to court and arguing that PSAC pickets constitute a danger. That’s not right. And it doesn’t show respect for workers.
The Winnipeg Airport likes to pride itself on being one of Manitoba’s Best Employers. But they are pushing for contracting out provisions that would hurt their employees and drive down wages. We will fight this heavy-handed approach with everything we have, and call on all workers – both unionized and non-unionized – to stand together and send a firm message to Barry Rempel and the Winnipeg Airport: “Contracting Out Won’t Fly. Come Back to the Table With a Fair Deal.”
We have been so honoured by the support we have been shown by our sisters and brothers in the union movement. On July 28 there was a large rally in support of PSAC/UCTE Local 50600 with about 300 people in attendance. We have had strong support from the Manitoba Federation of Labour and affiliates, including the Manitoba Teachers’ Society which has been very active on our behalf and in support of picketers on the line. Our members attended the crucial “Care Not Cuts” rally on September 13 to show their solidarity with health care workers in Manitoba. Members also attended the Winnipeg Labour Council (WLC) Labour Day March and BBQ. Attendees cheered their support loudly and thanks to the WLC, they left with almost 20 cases of potato chips that were left over from the BBQ (due to massive rain right before the BBQ was to start). As well, I was given the opportunity to address the 1,100 delegates at the Manitoba NDP Leadership Convention September 16 with the members on strike to address our concerns.
Many thanks to the components who collected donations at your conventions. As we have all faced the threat of contracting out and/or privatizing, it is important that we support all efforts to stop the trend.
Thank you again for your solidarity. I know it’s been difficult to navigate away from the airport and we remain hopeful that we will be able to reach a tentative agreement.
October 19 will be the second anniversary of the election of the current Liberal government. It is also the date that public service workers at the Vegreville Case Processing Centre (CPC) will have to choose to leave their home, quit their jobs, or face a three hour commute because of the decision to close this centre.
On July 19, I joined NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship MP Jenny Kwan along with Linda Duncan, NDP MP for Edmonton Strathcona, Shannon Stubbs, Conservative MP for Lakeland, Jessica Littlewood, NDP MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, the CEIU NVP and Local Executive members in Vegreville.
The meeting was scheduled with Vegreville mayor Myron Hayduk and most of the town councillors to discuss the impact of the CPC closure. All parties had an opportunity to express their concerns in their first face-to-face exchange and the group committed to continuing to work together.
Jessica Littlewood spoke to the province’s commitment to contribute to enhanced post-secondary opportunities in the Vegreville and surrounding areas—one of the main concerns cited by the department for the closure of the CPC. Myron Hayduk said the town has approved re-zoning to address access to housing which is another one of department’s concerns about the viability of keeping the CPC in Vegreville.
MPs Jenny Kwan and Shannon Stubbs agreed to work together to draw attention to the issue when the House of Commons returns for fall session. This timeline also falls in line with the deadline that the employer has given CPC workers to decide if they will take a position in Edmonton or forfeit their jobs.
Jenny Kwan called attention to the work that the various stakeholders have done to date to try to save the Vegreville CPC in a July 17 letter. She urged the Minister to intervene and halt the plans to close the CPC.
Invitations to visit Vegreville have been disregarded by Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
An updated online letter has been posted to the www.respectvegreville.ca website along with an updated flyer. A meme and facebook/twitter post has been posted on social media to garner attention to the deadline and the Liberal government anniversary.
SUPPORT OUR PORT
It is clear that Omnitrax is not willing to live up to its responsibilities, having renounced its obligation under the 2008 contract that it signed with the federal and provincial governments to keep the rail line operational and conduct needed repairs. Now businesses are suffering, food prices are soaring, and there is no end in sight.
PSAC has consistently called on the federal government to bring the Port of Churchill and the rail line back as a national asset so that it can return to full operation in the short term, and remain so for generations to come. The recalcitrant position that Omnitrax has taken over the past year only highlights further the need for this kind of action.
The people of Churchill deserve a path forward that protects their future and treats them with respect. It is time to put an end to this desperate situation and provide real solutions, now.
In co-ordination with UCTE, I had an Op-Ed published in the Winnipeg Free Press entitled “Where’s Merv?”, calling on former Conservative MP and now Omnitrax Canada President Merv Tweed to sit down with workers and affected communities to come up with a real plan to fix the rail line and support our port.
Although time is running short, the federal government has recently made public statements suggesting that they are willing to step up and ensure that repairs are made to the rail line.
A joint letter from Brother Dave Clark and myself was sent to Minister Jim Carr requesting a meeting with Wayne Wouters who has been appointed by government to negotiate the transfer of the rail line and the Port from OmniTrax to the joint consortium of First Nations and northern communities. No response received as of the time of this report.
On July 4, the Partnership to Defend Public Services, a group of public sector unions, filed for an injunction against the so-called Public Services Sustainability Act, recently passed by the Manitoba government. PSAC is one of the unions involved in the Partnership. This law fundamentally undermines collective bargaining rights. The Partnership filed a statement of claim in the Court of Queen's Bench challenging the constitutionality of the Public Services Sustainability Act. The action includes a request for an injunction that would prevent the government from proclaiming the Act.
On August 10, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announced that he would be stepping down/retiring. This launched a leadership campaign in the governing Saskatchewan Party. PSAC members will push each and every leadership candidate to commit to stopping the attacks on public services and privatization efforts that have characterized this government.
The Official Opposition of Saskatchewan, NDP is also in a leadership race. Two candidates have declared and the date of the leadership convention has recently been moved forward to March 3, 2018.
Union of Veterans Affairs Employees conducted an information picket in front of Deer Lodge Centre on August 10. Our members proudly provide care and service to the Canadian veterans that are residents of Deer Lodge Centre. They are extremely concerned with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s decision to eliminate food service onsite at Deer Lodge and to instead bring in meals from the Regional Distribution Facility. Members, residents and other unions took to the street to protest the WRHA’s austerity cuts.
On September 16, Manitoba NDP members selected Wab Kinew as their new leader and the Leader of the Official Opposition.
COMMITTEES IN ACTION
National Public Service Week was held from June 11–17, 2017 to mark the importance of federal public service employees and recognize their service to Canadian society. During the week, members throughout the Prairie Region organized alternative NPSW events to call the employer on their hypocrisy and tell the federal government to put its money where its mouth is and demonstrate real respect and Fix Phoenix, rather than empty gestures.
In Winnipeg, several different events were held at various worksites throughout the week. UHEW Local 50012 held a lunchtime event at 391 York with almost 250 workers in attendance. They handed out stickers and flyers, and had members sign postcards.
Approximately 60 members from USGE Local 50015 visited the PSAC tent outside the RCMP D-Division on Portage Avenue. The event created awareness about the Phoenix Pay System problems, but also gave members the opportunity to discuss the national PSAC/USGE organizing campaign for Civilian Members of the RCMP.
On Wednesday of NPSW, dozens of Winnipeg members showed up for a march and rally, despite pouring rain. The march began at the Manitoba Legislative Building and ended at Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park. The skies had cleared and the sun was out for the rally and BBQ at the park, and PSAC National President Robyn Benson was in attendance to speak about the postcard campaign. There was also a separate event held by UHEW Local 50012 outside the National Microbiology Lab.
UTE Local 40023 and the Saskatoon Area Council hosted a lunch event. Approximately 150 members came out to the rally in support of the Fix Phoenix campaign. Members were treated to a sandwich, drink and a cookie. They also received stickers and the postcard, which they committed to sending on.
During the employer-organized BBQ at CFB Suffield in Alberta, Local Executive members from UNDE 30910 and UNDE 30907 handed out letters addressed to Glen Motz, MP for Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, condemning the Phoenix Pay System and the delay in signing the ratified collective agreements with four Treasury Board bargaining units. Many of the members were personally affected by Phoenix and almost 150 people participated in the letter signing action.
The Calgary Area Council held a Boycott National Public Service Week event in the Atrium of the Harry Hays Building. Area Council members distributed 450 icecream bars to members to help them cool off after being Burnt by Phoenix. All of the ice cream bars were handed out in under an hour, along with hundreds of stickers, flyers and post cards to mail to Scott Brisson.
Pride activities were a major focus for members during the summer months.
Lethbridge Pride is a weeklong event that runs from June 19 – 25th, ending with the Pride Parade. This year the Lethbridge and District Area Council financially contributed to two crosswalks including the pride flag (rainbow colored) and the world’s first transgendered flag (pink, white and blue) that are showcased in downtown Lethbridge.
PSAC members showed their pride during the Winnipeg Pride Parade on Sunday, June 4, 2017. More than 40 people marched with PSAC in the parade, the largest turnout we have seen for this event. Members of the Winnipeg Human Rights Committee planned and created a float for the parade with decorations, music and an excited delegation of volunteers who handed out Pride-themed flags, stickers, tattoos and dog tags to the crowd. Everyone was very excited to be a part of this exciting event and will no doubt return next year as our presence at Pride continues to grow. Members also attended the second annual Steinbach Pride parade.
Members of the Calgary Regional Women’s Committee participated in “Keeping the Circle Strong” a Family Festival and Powwow held June 24, 2017 at the Calgary Stampede Grounds to celebrate National Aboriginal Week. PSAC had a tent on the site, with our famous “Wheel of Questions” and lots of swag to give away to our visitors, as well as suckers and temporary tattoos to give to the kids. We had information about Jordan’s Principle at the tent and had some questions related to that on our wonderful “Wheel of Questions.” Our committee member Vicky Norris was an organizer of the event and she decorated the wheel so that it had a really eye catching aboriginal theme. The booth had many visitors and we discussed a wide variety of matters such as childcare, Jordan’s Principle and Phoenix with members of the public.
June 21st was National Aboriginal Day and the Lethbridge and District Area Council helped to support events that were taking place in Lethbridge Galt Gardens. Sr. Krysty Munns was lucky enough to be able to partake in a teaching tool to share the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada called the Blanket Exercise. The LDAC also supported a Pow Wow at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre which was organized by First Nations Co-op Students who are working at the center. There were young drummers from the local elementary school who were learning to drum as part of their culture as well as young women who were learning the jingle dance and the fancy dance. This event was well attended by students, members of the community, management and members from AGR 30048.
The Regina Human Rights Committee organized a candlelight vigil at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building on Monday, June 12 during the Queen City Pride Festival, held June 9 to 18 in Regina. About 50 people attended the vigil, which honoured the memory of the victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. PSAC members collected 49 pairs of shows to display during the vigil, representing the 49 innocent people that lost their lives. Trent Wotherspoon, the then interim leader of the Saskatchewan NDP, spoke at the event. At the end, people were encouraged to take a seedling tree home with them to represent that life continues. The 49+ pairs of shoes displayed during the vigil were donated to shelters across Regina.
The Edmonton Regional Women’s Committee has three initiatives underway: one is a garden, and vegetables are donated to senior women living at the poverty level; a grocery card campaign to raise funds to purchase grocery cards for seniors; and the RWC conducted a one-day seminar on Universal Childcare on September 16. 16 members from 10 different components were in attendance and were presented with the opportunity to see presentations from three very strong women advocates around the topic of a Universal Childcare System. NDP MLA Marie Renaud spoke about the NDP initiatives currently taking place, Morna Ballantyne presented the PSAC campaign initiatives and Siobhan Vipond from the Alberta Federation of Labour gave a presentation sharing some great tips for lobbying government. Once all three speakers completed their presentation a panel was set up for questions from the participants. After lunch, participants of the seminar took to the streets in a March for Universal Childcare. Opening remarks for the March were given by Patricia Jessome, Chair of the Regional Women’s Committee and for 30 minutes they held their flags, blew their whistles and called on the government of today to make a Universal Childcare Program a reality for ALL Canadians. In the afternoon participants had table discussions about the reality of childcare and have built an action plan for the Northern Alberta Regional Women’s Committee to continue in the fight for quality, affordable and accessible childcare.
The Winnipeg RWC conducted a School Supply Drive for the families of Winnipeg Airport workers on strike as they transitioned back to school. Many thanks to all involved in this important initiative.
UNDE 501705 held a payday demonstration at the base in Winnipeg on August 9 to protest Phoenix issues. As a result of this, the Winnipeg Area Council has held three information pickets at MP Jim Carr’s office in a row. Challenge received, challenge accepted!
PSAC members were well represented at Labour Day events throughout the Prairies.
The Lethbridge Area Council participated at the Labour Day Family Picnic by providing a generator and bouncy castles and helium for PSAC balloons. Members from the area council supervised children at the bouncy castle throughout the day. A tent was set up where members spoke about the Public Service, Phoenix issues and handed out PSAC swag. The Area Council also supported members in Medicine Hat by contributing some funds to cover the cost of bouncy castles at their Labour Day Picnic. Sr. Danielle Poissant (Union of National Defence Employees Local 30907) organized this event in conjunction with the Medicine Hat Labour Council.
The Saskatoon Area Council members were busy handing out helium balloons, stickers, frisbees and suckers at their Labour Day activities, where there was a record attendance and perfect weather.
The Calgary Area Council was instrumental in planning participation and support for the annual Labour Day BBQ working with the Calgary and District Labour Council.
In Regina, members set up the Prairies tent on the grounds of the Sask. Legislature and distributed rulers, pencils, crayons, erasers, frisbees, balloons and water bottles. They had an opportunity to speak with MP Erin Weir and expressed frustration that many PSAC members are still plagued with Phoenix related pay issues.
In Winnipeg, despite rain and cold weather, a shorter version march went forward and a BBQ followed. I addressed the crowd of about 300 people with Winnipeg Airport workers. PSAC had a booth and handed out materials related to Phoenix and other PSAC issues. Brandon members joined festivities in their community for the first time in many years. The Area Council used our prize wheel to entice community members to come over to hear about our issues.
On September 10, Winnipeg PSAC members and some family members took a road trip to the Shoal Lake reserve Water Museum. After a bit of a drive and a ferry crossing, members were guided on the reserve and through a museum documenting the lack of clean potable water. Members came back reflecting how these conditions could exist in Canada. The reserve does not even have access to medical help on the island. Following a 4 hour tour and with much left unseen, members were treated to a lunch of wild rice soup and fry bread. Another tour is being planned for October pending availability of the guide.
Notice to bargain has been issued for SRG Security Resource Group, Edmonton Airport GBU, and Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp.
No negotiations are scheduled for a first collective agreement at Bouygues Energies and Services Canada Limited pending legal decision on whether Winnipeg Airport Authority is the true employer. If successful, the bargaining unit will be folded into the current UCTE General Bargaining Unit collective agreement.
Input call has been issued for ATCO 15 Wing, Moose Jaw.
We have a tentative first collective agreement at the University of Saskatchewan with the newly formed Academic Capacity unit. Academic workers will be voting on the tentative agreement on Oct. 3rd. Negotiations for Post Doc workers continue at the Univ. of Sask.
Bargaining is underway for our DCL Local 40004 at Casino Regina. Threats of a mandated government wage cut of 3.5% and the provincial government publicly declaring their intent to privatize crown corporations (Bill 40) will make for an intense round of negotiations.
Negotiations are starting soon for the UVAE members at Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg.
Negotiations for UCTE members at the Port of Churchill are stalled and we await information on whether the federal government is able to negotiate the sale of the Port and the rail line.
Negotiations are underway for the English Language Program at the University of Winnipeg. First contract negotiations are underway for the Academic Capacity and the Research Assistants at the University of Winnipeg. Negotiations also continue at Brandon University.
Negotiations continue the week of Sept. 25th at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. A priority issue for the local is the high incidence of precarious work.
Negotiations are underway for All Nations Healing Hospital in Quapelle, SK.
Negotiations continue at Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD).
Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President