Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the Manitoba Federation of Labour Executive Council submitted for the December 2016 meeting. This report covers the period from the last MFL meeting.
Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairie Region
Report to the Manitoba Federation of Labour Executive Council
TREASURY BOARD BARGAINING
While some progress has been achieved with Treasury Board bargaining, there are still important issues of fairness and improving public services for Canadians that are yet to be resolved. PSAC has requested that a mediator be appointed and talks are to resume again soon.
Leading up to this, PSAC launched a letter-writing campaign urging Prime Minister Trudeau to make good on his word to support public service workers. We also released a series of radio and print ads as part of this campaign.
On October 31, PSAC members took to the streets throughout Winnipeg and across Canada. Wearing masks and carrying Halloween-themed picket signs, the workers demanded respect. Members were demonstrating that they are in need of a fair collective agreement with the federal government and “haunted” by the Phoenix pay system failure.
Meanwhile, PSAC continues to hold the government accountable on Phoenix. On November 16, the government 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 and we are working with the government in every way we can to help.
After many weeks of no response, I had a teleconference with Minister Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, on September 20. Minister Bains was in Churchill, Manitoba to announce a $4.6 million investment in both short and long-term economic development for the community.
I also met with the Manitoba Liberal caucus in Winnipeg and the Minister’s staff when I was in Ottawa in November. They’re looking at a long-term strategy, but haven’t made any commitments. However, this is only the first step in the process of securing this community’s future. We still believe that making the Port of Churchill a port authority would help strengthen the long-term economic prospect of Churchill itself.
Elsewhere in the Prairies, we’re asking for support from other unions and all Canadians to fight back against the closure of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Case Processing Centre. On October 27, employees 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. Department managers cited recruitment of bilingual staff, training opportunities and transit issues as reasons for the decision to relocate to Edmonton. The employees represent approximately 5% of the population of Vegreville, a community approximately 100 km outside of Edmonton.
I was honoured to be in attendance when NDP MP Sheri Benson introduced a private member’s bill, C-321, to ban the import, export and manufacturing of asbestos and use the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to protect workers’ health. This is a cause very near to my heart and I am so happy to see progress being made at the national level.
Now, PSAC is taking the ongoing campaign to ban asbestos directly to the Prime Minister with our new postcard initiative. The ban asbestos postcard campaign calls on federal government to: immediately pass legislation banning the use, export and import of all asbestos-containing materials; create a national public registry of asbestos-containing buildings accessible to the public; and, in collaboration with provincial, territorial and First Nations governments, establish a national public registry of asbestos-related injuries and fatalities.
On November 1, I was proud to present to the Manitoba government’s Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development. I appeared in front of Committee members in the Manitoba Legislative Building, along with many other voices from the Manitoba labour movement, to submit PSAC’s position on Bill 7: The Labour Relations Amendment Act. You can read our full submission on the PSAC Prairies website.
The House of Commons has voted to pass Bill C-4, which will repeal two laws passed by the previous Conservative government. Bill C-4 will remove the roadblocks to unionization contained in the former Bill C-525 and the excessive reporting requirements designed only for unions in the former Bill C-377. The bill will now be referred to the Senate.
While we’re pleased with Bill C-4, we have concerns over other legislation this government is moving ahead with, including Bill C-27. PSAC will join the CLC’s lobbying efforts of Liberal MPs and Ministers regarding Bill C-27. This bill changes the Pension Benefits Standards Act to allow for target benefit plans and is an attack on retirement security.
On November 2, PSAC was proud to support the National Students Day of Action, led by the Canadian Federation of Students and sponsored by PSAC and other labour organizations. I attended a rally at Brandon University, along with a group of PSAC members. Meanwhile, staff and members joined students at the University of Winnipeg. PSAC firmly stands in solidarity with students in the call for universal education, education justice and public education for the public good.
This day of action was also a great way to get our members active and engaged, as we are currently in negotiations with our academic, research and English Language Proficiency units at Brandon University, University of Winnipeg, and University of Saskatchewan.
I was also happy to march in solidarity with the UMFA workers on strike at the University of Manitoba. I commend all UMFA members for the strength and determination they showed during the strike, and I congratulate them on reaching and ratifying a collective agreement.
November marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. PSAC was born when the Civil Service Association and the Civil Service Federation merged in 1966. Back in 1966, PSAC used the newfound strength and unity to negotiate its first collective agreements with the federal government. Over the next decades, we won major improvements in working conditions for our members. We also made breakthroughs through changes in the law.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish my sisters and brothers a safe and happy holiday season. I look forward to continuing the important work we have to do to fight back against the Pallister government’s anti-worker and anti-union agenda in 2017.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies