MFL Executive Council Report (Mar. 2014)

Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the Manitoba Federation of Labour Executive Council submitted for the March 2014 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
March 2014

For the past six months, PSAC has been a proud ally to veterans in the fight to maintain face-to-face services and keep nine Veterans Affairs Canada offices from closing. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to watch the short video PSAC produced on the importance of services for veterans.

On January 31, veterans held protests from coast to coast. In Brandon, more than 50 people gathered in the bitter cold to witness the closure of the office and the loss of face-to-face services for veterans. Local veterans attended to speak out against the closure and call on Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire, Minster for Veterans Affairs Julian Fantino and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reopen the offices and fully restore the face-to-face services veterans deserve. Veterans laid flowers and wreaths to memorialize the closure and shared their thoughts. Thank you to the Brandon and District Labour Council for attending and supporting veterans in the Brandon area.

So what will these closures mean for veterans in the Brandon area? Case files will be transferred to Veterans Affairs offices in Shilo and Winnipeg, which means anywhere from a half-hour to two-and-a-half-hour drive to receive the face-to-face services they deserve. For the veterans who have limited mobility and no longer drive the barriers don’t end there. They will be required to pay out of pocket for the $100 round-trip cab fare to Shilo, or take the bus into Winnipeg for around $50 round trip.

Meanwhile, the attacks on the democratic rights of PSAC members continued with Bill C-4, the latest of the Conservatives’ infamous omnibus bills implementing the 2013 federal budget. This Bill, which was rushed through Parliament in record time, without any prior consultation or warning, gave the Conservative government the exclusive and unilateral authority to take away the right to strike from any and all federal workers by declaring them essential. We take the position that this kind of law violates our fundamental right to freedom of association and freedom of speech.

Bill C-4 goes even further than Saskatchewan’s Bill 5 because it also imposes a rigged system on all those federal bargaining units that will be declared essential and forced into arbitration. The new law requires that Arbitrators base their decisions on the federal government’s stated budget priorities. 

And guess what the February 2014 federal budget declared as the government’s priorities?

  1. Bringing down the compensation of federal workers to align with private sector workers, the vast majority of whom are not unionized, and
  2. Stripping away the PSAC’s negotiated sick leave provisions.

In other words, the government’s budget priority is the race to the bottom and all arbitrators will be forced by law to join in.

To ensure our members’ perspectives, voices and stories are heard, we continue to release videos from the Prairies Video Project. Our latest release profiles PSAC members and Aboriginal activists involved in the Idle No More movement. Previous videos include the value of unions and importance of sick leave.

In the past several months we ratified collective agreements with the University of Winnipeg, Hudson Bay Port Company (Churchill) and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. We also have a newly organized unit with 35 members who work as Protective Services Officers at the Winnipeg Royal Canadian Mint facility.

Finally, the 6th Triennial Convention of the PSAC Prairie Region will be held in Saskatoon, beginning June 27-29, 2014.

For more information on anything mentioned in this report, please visit our website.

Respectfully submitted,

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