Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the Manitoba Federation of Labour Executive Council submitted for the September 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
PORT OF CHURCHILL & NORTHERN MANITOBA
We represent workers at the Port of Churchill. On Monday, July 25th with no prior warning, OmniTrax Canada called workers in at the Port of Churchill and advised that they were cancelling the 2016 grain shipping season and workers currently on staff would be laid off effective August 8. Workers not yet called in for the season were notified they would not be called back.
Let’s remember that the CEO of OmniTrax Canada is Merv Tweed, former Conservative MP for Brandon. The corporation profited during the Canadian Wheat Board days and was receiving subsidies since the Conservatives killed the CWB. That subsidy is due to expire in 2017 and—with no buyers coming forward—we believe this is a hardball tactic from OmniTrax to try force the provincial and federal governments to come back to the table with cash.
We have been working hard for immediate solutions to address this crisis for the community of Churchill. Roughly 10% of the town’s population was laid off or not called back to work. We have also been working with stakeholders to shape long-term solutions. The privatization of the port was a complete failure, so we are calling on the Trudeau Liberals to put the Port into public ownership as a Port Authority.
To date, we have been in contact with MP Niki Ashton (NDP), MLA Judy Klassen (Liberal) and MLA Tom Lindsey (NDP Labour Critic) and Churchill Mayor Michael Spence. The federal Liberal MPs have all refused to meet with us—specifically Minister Jim Carr. Minister Carr has been tasked with “intelligence gathering” but was too busy to meet with PSAC representatives because he was busy meeting stakeholders. Apparently the Liberal caucus does not believe that workers are stakeholders in this scenario.
We’ve also contacted the Premier’s office who put us to Minister Cliff Cullen. After repeated calls to Cullen’s office and a tentative meeting date that was cancelled, they have not returned any requests to meet.
PSAC and UCTE (Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, a component of PSAC) have launched a campaign to #SupportOurPort. We have created window signs and buttons as a show of support that are being used all over Churchill. If you have members in the areas affected by the reduced rail line service or season closure of the port, please let us know and we can arrange to get some signs and buttons out to them. And they can take a picture with the sign and post it to the Facebook page as a show of support! We are also in contact with the National Farmers Union and Canadian Wheat Board Alliance.
We have also joined with the local community to create a Facebook group for “Support Our Port.” Please feel free to share and invite to your members to join the group. Many of the affected workers are members of the group so any messages of support are greatly appreciated. For those Twitter activists, please use the #SupportOurPort hashtag.
We are also whole-heartedly supporting the federal petition from Niki Ashton’s office calling on the Feds to take back the port. You can sign the petition online by going to the Support Our Port Facebook page or by visiting Niki’s website. We will be continuing to push governments at all levels to quit the talking and consulting and come up with actual solutions. We appreciate any and all support you’re able to provide and any suggestions or ideas are welcome.
This is yet another example of privatization (under the federal Liberals in the late 1990s) that has failed. With the closure of the Tolko mill in The Pas, we are very concerned about the future of Northern Manitoba and workers in the region in general. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact me at any time
We were also very disappointed to hear Premier Pallister’s announcement that Manitoba will be pulling out of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation. We have yet to learn about the impact to our members employed there, but if experiences from the Canadian Wheat Board are any comparison, this is not good news for the industry.
POSTIES, PRIDE, RACIALLY VISIBLE, LABOUR DAY: PROVINCIAL ACTIVITY ROUNDUP
We have been busy in Manitoba over the past four months. From September 9 to the 11th, the PSAC Prairie Region is hosting our first ever Prairies Conference for Racially Visible Members here in Winnipeg! This is an opportunity to meet, discuss, strategize and mobilize on issues impacting racially visible members in the region.
I joined the MGEU picket line in solidarity with members of the MacDonald Youth Services Crisis Stabilization Local 221 in August, as the Pallister PCs refuse to make reasonable changes for workers.
Apart from the Port of Churchill, our major focus has been the Phoenix pay system and how it continues to fail our members. The Harper Conservatives sent “affected notices” to over 2,000 pay administrators across the country, centralizing pay processing and rolling out a new software called Phoenix. The Trudeau Liberals continued this rollout despite widespread problems, and now our members are suffering the consequences. We held a webinar for members in the Prairies attended by over 75 members, updating them about Phoenix and the work that we have been doing.
We had a table on Aboriginal Day at the Forks on June 25th, connecting with the community and handing out our exclusively designed Idle No More pins to the public along with other materials. The Winnipeg Human Rights Committee is working on setting up a Regional Aboriginal People’s Circle (RAPC) as a sub-committee.
National PSAC President Robyn Benson and I were very happy to join a contingent of PSAC members and family at the first-ever Steinbach Pride rally and march. Federal Conservative MP Ted Falk, among others, declined to participate in this historic march.
We will be handing out Freezies, Frisbees and other goodies to celebrate Labour Day in Winnipeg this September 5. With the Pallister Progressive Conservatives already attacking workers and unions, celebration is important to keep our spirits up for the struggle ahead.
VICTORIES, BARGAINING UPDATES – MANITOBA
The Supreme Court of Canada has recently said it will not hear an appeal from the Winnipeg Airports Authority of a case that PSAC won at a lower court. The Supreme Court’s decision means that a ruling of the Manitoba Court of Appeal on shift and weekend premiums stands. As a result, over 60 PSAC/UCTE members will get paid the premiums they were initially denied by the employer. The Winnipeg Airport Authority tentative agreement was also ratified on August 10.
Following a day of action during which Union of Taxation Employees took to the streets outside their workplaces across Canada, I am happy to say that the negotiating team finally reached a Tentative Agreement with the Canada Revenue Agency after four years of negotiations. Please visit our national website for highlights of the agreement.
Firefighters at the Winnipeg Airport Authority ratified a new collective agreement on August 10th. The Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development collective agreement expired on August 7, 2015. A June negotiating round was postponed and we are now looking at September dates.
Winnipeg Protective Services Officers at the Royal Canadian Mint are a newly organized unit with 35 members who perform security services at the Winnipeg Mint. The Employer presented an economic offer on May 11, and we are now down to pay issues, with the next round scheduled for November 1 and 2. Our unit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is in its early stages of bargaining. Priority is being given to address systemic precarious work issues, particularly for front-of-house staff. Negotiations are also underway at the University of Winnipeg with our academic, research and English Language Proficiency units.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies