MFL Executive Council Report (June 2013)

Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the Manitoba Federation of Labour Executive Council submitted for the June 17-18, 2013 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
June 2013

Last month, the federal government handed affected notices to another 530 PSAC members, including 84 across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba––the majority are Agriculture Union members. Fully one-third of the 235 notices that went out to PSAC members who work at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada came from the Prairie Region, the same region that Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture, hails from. As we all know, federal job cuts have become an epidemic across the country, but I’m very concerned with the attack on agriculture in Canada. They’re wiping out programs and services and devastating small communities from Indian Head, to Morden, to Brandon.

The most recent cuts announced mean more major changes for prairies farmers and farming communities. The Brandon Research and Development Centre (BRDC), one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s national research and development centres, will be shuttering the Beef Cattle Program. Research at the BRDC determines the sustainability of agricultural production, and the impact of crop and animal production on the quality of the environment, including land, water, and air resources.

The closure means a major loss for research and development, but is also a huge hit to the local economy. The BRDC has one of the largest research centre-owned herds in western Canada, with over $300,000 worth of cattle sold every year. Farm supplies, including hay, straw, feed, fence supplies, building materials, fuel, vaccines and veterinary services are all sourced from local suppliers and farmers.

PSAC’s National Board of Directors has unanimously endorsed a plan to protect our members against new threats to our collective agreement rights. PSAC membership has been affected by the ongoing cuts to federal public services and our mandate needs to be to change the government in 2015. We need the help of each and every member to do whatever it takes to fit into that mandate. We also need the support and solidarity of our sisters and brothers in the labour movement, and hope you will stand beside us in our fight.

The past couple months have been busy for Prairies activists, with events including the CLC Political Action Conference in Toronto and PSAC’s National Health & Safety Conference in Montreal. On the first weekend of May, we welcomed over 60 Sisters to Banff for the PSAC Prairies Regional Women’s Conference. The conference theme, “Telling Our Stories”, encouraged conference delegates to share knowledge and experiences in an effort to move forward together and advance women’s issues. The group was diverse with a wide range of skills and experiences.

As I have mentioned in past reports, the PSAC Prairie Region has been a partner in the campaign to create a mandatory registry of public buildings containing asbestos in Saskatchewan, a campaign led by the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (SADAO). On April 17, PSAC was one of only four groups invited to present as a witness to the Saskatchewan Human Services Committee as they debated Bill 604. 

On April 18, I was delighted to be in the gallery of the Saskatchewan Legislature to see our efforts pay off. Saskatchewan MLA’s unanimously voted to make reporting of asbestos in public buildings mandatory by law. The legislation to amend the Public Health Act was aptly renamed “Howard’s Law” in honour of our friend Howard Willems. Now that this unprecedented legislation has passed, advocacy groups can pursue similar legislation in provinces across the country and talk to government officials about the importance of asbestos awareness.

I’d also like to note, I was honoured to participate as a panelist for a Budget 2013 Lunch and Learn in Winnipeg. Brother Kevin Rebeck moderated the panel and other panelists included NDP MP and Finance Critic Peggy Nash and CUPE National President Brother Paul Moist. Thank you to the MFL for organizing the event and inviting me to participate.

For more information on anything mentioned in this report, please visit the PSAC Prairie Region website.

Respectfully submitted,

Marianne Hladun,
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies