REPORT OF THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT, PRAIRIES
TO THE NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS
March 3-6, 2015
This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting.
19TH DAY OF ACTION
After officially launching this initiative in the Prairies on November 19, it has quickly grown with more locals joining this movement and participating in actions each month.
Some of the more popular actions have been photo ops with members wearing facemasks and holding “standing together for public services/standing together for fairness” signs. We’ve also had several locals hold information pickets.
In Lethbridge, Agriculture Local 30048 has been getting creative with their monthly actions. In November, the local distributed health products such as tissues and cough candies to members in the workplace adorned with PSAC stickers that read, "Go to work sick? No Way!" and "Healthy workplaces? Yes Way!" This month, they tweeted out 19 easy to do, union and politically themed new years resolutions using the hashtag #NineteenNewYearsResolutions. Many of these were retweeted and favourited, with some PIPSC members even adding their own resolutions to the conversation.
This is just one aspect of our regional strategy. In September, more than 60 union leaders from across the Prairie Region gathered for the Prairies Summit to discuss priorities for our union and strategize for the coming year. Leaders brainstormed innovative strategies and identified tools and resources needed to be effective. Attendees included the Prairie Region Council, component national officers, and representatives from the various human rights committees, regional women’s committees and area councils throughout the Prairies. A steering committee was established with representation from each group that will monitor the progress and ensure we’re working strategically to implement the plans and ideas developed.
One of those ideas was Webinar Wednesday, our monthly, interactive webinars for members to learn about critical issues and get important updates. The webinars are also an opportunity for members to ask questions and give feedback. Our first webinar “Bargaining Basics” was held on January 14. We’ve received really positive feedback on it and are looking forward to our upcoming webinars on retirement, childcare, political action, labour history and health and safety. The video from the bargaining webinar has been posted on the PSAC Prairies website.
SISTERS SUPPORTING SISTERS
Regional Women’s Committees throughout the region participated in two very important women’s events during this period, Sisters in Spirit Vigils held on October 4 and various events to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on December 6.
The Lethbridge RWC co-organized the Sisters in Spirit Vigil with the Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Society, including an opportunity for people to create their own faceless dolls to be displayed at the event. Members from the Lethbridge Area Council also attended the event and carried PSAC banners in the procession from City Hall to Galt Gardens.
Saskatoon RWC members participated in the vigil and walk, which was attended by more than 200 people. Sister Nancy Johnson, RWC Chair and PRC RWC Rep, organized a lunch and learn at her workplace with guest speaker Darlene Sicotte, co-organizer of the SIS Saskatoon event. The workplace presentation was attended by more than 50 people and streamed online to three other workplaces.
In Calgary RWC members participated in the vigil by marching from City Hall to Eau Claire and also donated money to make lunches for participants. Two weeks earlier, they also participated in the Take Back the Night Event at Connaught Park in Calgary.
To recognize December 6, the Calgary RWC held a Kitchen Table Conversations event. Nearly 20 women gathered to discuss domestic violence and how the lack of affordable childcare impacts victims. Guest speakers included an officer and social worker from the Calgary Police Service Domestic Conflict Response Team and a domestic abuse survivor.
In Saskatoon, RWC members set up a workplace display on December 3, which honoured the École Polytechnique victims. On December 6, Saskatoon RWC members and other community activists participated in the screening of Polytechnique. Sister Nancy Johnson participated in a post-screening panel discussion on violence against women. At the RWC meeting on December 10, Sister Johnson set up a photo display and gave a candle-lit presentation in honour of the victims.
Coinciding with December 6, the Winnipeg RWC hosted a special event titled “Sisters United”. The event opened with guest speaker Deanne Crothers, Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors, who spoke on the importance of political action and work/life balance. This was followed by kitchen table conversations around childcare, PSAC’s childcare video, drafting lobbying letters, and work on a social justice activity.
On a separate occasion, the Winnipeg RWC welcomed Anna Pazdzierski, Executive Director of Nova House Inc., a shelter for abused women and children in the Interlake Region of Manitoba. She spoke about the impact that federal government cuts has had on their ability to provide services. The committee and individual sisters made donations to the shelter and collected pajamas to donate as well.
The Regina RWC hosted their Kitchen Table Conversations event in October focusing on the issue of childcare. The Lethbridge RWC supported “Nifty Knitters” in their third annual donation drive/drop off of knitted clothing.
Hundreds of childcare activists gathered in Winnipeg for the ChildCare 2020 National Conference, November 13-15. Among them were a delegation of PSAC members, including myself and three other Prairies activists. Sister Sherry Hunt, a childcare activist in Lethbridge and PRC Rep, attended the conference and shared her experiences in a report that we’ve posted to the Prairies website.
COMMITTEES IN OUR COMMUNITIES
Prairies members were happy to support our striking sisters and brothers from other unions on the picket lines over the past several months.
In Saskatoon, negotiations with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615 took a turn for the worse this September when the city locked out transit employees for 26 days. PSAC members from the Saskatoon Area Council were on the line in solidarity until the lockout was ruled unlawful and workers returned to work. The Area Council also supported members from UFCW Local 1400 at the Richardson Milling plant near Martensville, Saskatchewan. Employees were locked out of the oat milling plant for eight weeks during negotiations.
Meanwhile, members of the Lethbridge Area Council supported the Health Sciences Association of Alberta at their noon-hour information picket. Our members recognize the need to build alliances with other unions as we are all affected by employers who cut costs on the backs of workers and anti-union governments at every level.
The Lethbridge Area Council also hosted a public screening of We Are Wisconsin this month, which I was happy to attend along with Sister Benson who spoke about the parallels between the 2012 events in Wisconsin and the attacks on unions in Canada.
The Calgary Area Council attended the Stop Harper protest at Stephen Harper’s Calgary Southwest constituency office, organized by UTE Local 30024. They also made a donation to support our veterans in honour of Remembrance Day.
CONFERENCES & EDUCATION
From September 23-24 we held two regional conferences, including the Prairies Young Workers’ Conference and the Prairies Separate Employers Conference.
Nearly 40 young workers attended the Prairies Young Workers’ Conference, which was an important networking and educational opportunity for young members. During the two days, participants spent time learning more about their union, getting to know other members and sharing workplace experiences.
Meanwhile, 22 members from various separate employer locals and directly chartered locals gathered for the concurrent Separate Employers Conference. The gathering was the first of its kind in almost six years. Conference objectives included learning about the PSAC structure, how to deal with management, grievance-handling techniques and to develop leaders to lead others in the locals.
Regional offices throughout the Prairies held Activist Schools for PSAC members who are active in their union, eager to build workplace power and interested in doing political and social activism work. Dozens of activists participated in the training aimed at giving activists the tools and skills they need to support political and social activism, as well as prepare them to have meaningful and motivational conversations with co-workers.
Health and safety information sessions were held in Regina, Prince Albert, Edmonton and Calgary. The 90-minute sessions reviewed the significant changes that will affect all of our members on a daily basis with the introduction of Bill C-4. Members appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the topic and committed to taking the information back to their locals and building on the awareness and education. We also held a two-day course in Saskatoon, which compiled material from two PSAC courses, "H&S in PSAC Workplaces" and "Bill C-4 - Fighting for Our Lives".
As part of our regional strategy to work together with other unions and allies, PSAC members are attending the CLC Election Preparation Conferences in Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Edmonton. This training is to prepare for the upcoming federal election and potentially for provincial elections in 2015 and 2016. Members who attend have committed to being part of the activist team working on PSAC’s election strategy in the region through the area councils.
We also worked with a specialist to produce a detailed political analysis of the Prairie Region. This important information will be invaluable to area councils in the region as they prepare and plan for the upcoming election.
The Royal Canadian Mint has tabled a sick leave proposal similar to the Treasury Board proposal. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Protective Services Officers, the newest unit at the Royal Canadian Mint, meets again in February.
We have established bargaining committees for the two units at the University of Winnipeg and are in the process of putting together the program of demands. Negotiations are scheduled to commence in March.
Negotiations have stalled for the first collective agreement with Churchill Marine Tank Farm Company. An unfair labour practice is being filed.
Bargaining is currently underway for several airports. The collective agreement with Saskatoon Airport Authority expired June 30, 2014. Proposals were exchanged in November with first round of negotiations in January and the next round scheduled for March. At the Winnipeg Airport, the collective agreement with Avion Services Corporation expired at the end of 2014 and our first round of negotiations is scheduled for February. The collective agreement with Winnipeg Airport Authority expires this June, so the input call will be served in January and notice to bargain in March.
The Prairies commends our Treasury Board bargaining team members for working tirelessly to negotiate a fair agreement and protect our sick leave. This fight is not just being fought at the bargaining table, it’s being fought in workplaces across the country. That’s why Prairies members recorded messages of support and solidarity to send to PSAC bargaining teams meeting with Treasury Board, and the smaller bargaining teams currently in negotiations across the country. The video has been posted on our website.
Members are sick and tired of this government’s disrespect for them and for the vital services that they provide to Canadians. On October 30, PSAC members throughout the Prairies held events to speak out against concessions and promote healthier, more productive workplaces that deliver high quality public services.
HEALTH & SAFETY TOUR
The Prairies health and safety tour kicked off in October with worksite visits taking place throughout Saskatchewan. Clint Wirth, Regional Representative - Health & Safety, met with hundreds of PSAC members as he visited eight different worksites in five different cities and towns, including Fort Qu’Appelle, Melville, Yorkton, Regina and Prince Albert. The tour continued in November with stops in Alberta, including Edmonton and Calgary.
During the visits, Clint met with local executives and workplace H&S committees, toured the facilities, and had discussions about various H&S topics, such as the right to refuse, definition of danger and how Bill C-4 affects H&S in the workplace. He also had the opportunity to answer questions and address members' concerns specific to the workplace, including ergonomics, general safety and security measures, safety supplies, workloads, building a H&S network and further H&S training.
Though dates have yet to be confirmed, similar worksite visits and information sessions will be held in Manitoba.
NATIONAL YOUNG WORKERS INITIATIVE
I had the privilege to facilitate a meeting of PSAC’s young worker regional representatives on January 10 and 11, 2015, in Ottawa. This was the first meeting of its kind since the establishment of the Young Worker Initiative in the 2012-15 PSAC Budget. Eight Young Worker Reps participated, one from each region, including the two co-chairs from NCR. The synergy of the committee was immediate.
With a focused agenda, the group took time to reflect on the previous regional young worker initiatives from across the country. From this discussion they identified a list of challenges and successes and developed a three-year plan of action. The plan includes three objectives, which are fully aligned with and support the current PSAC priorities.
- Build a network of young workers/activists to work toward achieving PSAC priorities
- Network is connected within regions and across regions
- Young workers active, educated and supported within all aspects of PSAC
This plan was presented to the AEC in person by the committee––a first for the AEC. The Young Worker Reps will make a full presentation at the March 2015 NBoD meeting.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies
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