MFL Executive Council Report (Sept. 2014)

Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the Manitoba Federation of Labour Executive Council submitted for the September 11-12, 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
September 2014

The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) recently released a report that confirms PSAC’s position that the government is making reckless cuts to public services. According to the report, the Harper government has made cuts to programs without evaluating the impact of those cuts. Despite the federal government’s insistence that spending reductions would target inefficiencies, the PBO asserts, “performance did not have a strong influence on program termination.” This report comes as the federal government prepares to cut another 8,900 jobs by 2017, which would bring the total cuts to 35,000.

From July 8-10, PSAC’s bargaining teams met in Ottawa to start negotiations with Treasury Board. They will meet with the employer again from September 9-11. One of the biggest issues of concern for members this round is protecting sick leave.

The PBO released a new report concluding that it costs almost nothing extra to pay sick leave to federal civil servants. This is because most departments don’t have policies in place to backfill for sick leave. That means most employees who call in sick are not replaced, resulting in no incremental cost to departments.

PSAC members are taking action by writing letters to the editor and to their MPs. When Yvonne Hein, PSAC/Agriculture Union member in Winnipeg, heard about Tony Clement’s plan to take away accumulated sick leave benefits from federal public service workers, she wrote a letter to Shelley Glover, MP for Saint Boniface. She has yet to receive a response. Her letter is published on the PSAC Prairies website, along with my letter to the editor that was published in the Winnipeg Sun on July 15, criticizing the op-ed (“Sick of union entitlement”) that called the attacks on PSAC members’ sick leave “common sense”.

PSAC members showed Union Pride, Saskatoon Wide as the 6th Triennial Prairie Region Convention took over the “City of Bridges” June 27-29. More than 320 people attended the three-day event, including 268 delegates, 32 observers, and 22 guests.

Delegates heard greetings and special messages from Kelly Harrington, Saskatoon & District Labour Council President; Larry Hubich, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President; and Barb Byers, Canadian Labour Congress Secretary-Treasurer. Robyn Benson also returned home to the Prairies and in her address she advocated for a strong union, mobilized membership, and fair and decent collective agreements. She also stressed the importance of continuing to fight the Conservative agenda.

Delegates stood together in solidarity to denounce public service cuts by proudly holding up signs that state “Standing Together for Public Services / Standing Together for Fairness”. Together, they sent a strong message to the government that we are united, ready and committed to defending public services, our collective agreements, and our working conditions. An album of photos from this action has been posted to the PSAC Prairies Facebook page.

You may have already heard about Canada Border Services Agency disciplining officers in Emerson for responding to an RCMP request for assistance. Rather than commend the officers for their swift actions that helped keep the community safe, local CBSA management imposed suspensions of between 4 and 25 days. PSAC and its component, the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), will be pursuing all avenues to ensure the suspensions are overturned and CBSA begins to treat its employees with greater respect.

In my last few reports, I’ve been promoting the award-winning PSAC Prairies Video Project, which gives Prairies members an opportunity to share their stories and learn from our history. Additionally, PSAC Headquarters has released several useful videos over the past few months including: “PSAC members take a stand against cuts to public services”, “Employment Insurance in Canada: Hitting Rock Bottom”, “Standing together for bargaining, standing together for public services”. You can view these videos on PSAC’s YouTube channel.

In September we will host the Prairies Summit, which will bring together representatives from the Prairie Region Council, PSAC’s 17 Components, and Regional Committees and Area Councils to discuss priorities and plan for our future. We will work together to come up with a strategy to combat concessions and cuts to public services in an increasingly hostile political environment.

In the same week, we are hosting our Prairies Young Workers Conference and Prairies Separate Employers Conference. Conference participants will have the opportunity to learn from each other and build relationships. We will explore strategies for common issues, learn more about PSAC campaigns and opportunities, and develop networks to face the challenges ahead.

We’re also promoting the upcoming MFL Health & Safety Conference to our Manitoba members. Clint Wirth, PSAC Regional Representative – Health & Safety, will facilitate the new course “Health and Safety in Federally Regulated Workplaces”, where participants will learn about federal rules on health and safety.

Winnipeg PSAC members are gearing up for the municipal election in October. The Winnipeg Area Council is preparing a letter to send out to all members encouraging them to support labour-friendly candidates on Election Day. They are also sending mayoral candidates questions regarding their positions on issues. We will post responses to these questions on the Prairies website.

Aside from the municipal election next month, we’re already preparing for next year’s federal election. This election is a critical one for PSAC members and we will need the support of other unions to elect a federal government who will invest in the public services Canadians rely on. We are committed to working with the MFL and affiliates to ensure right wing governments at all levels can’t erode what workers have struggled to achieve. I look forward to your support and to working together.

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