NBoD Report (Feb. 5-8, 2013)

Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the National Board of Directors, submitted for the February 5-8, 2013 meeting. This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting.


REPORT OF THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT, PRAIRIES
TO THE NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS

February 5-8, 2013

This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting.

WE ARE ALL AFFECTED

On the September 15 National Day of Action, PSAC Prairies members in eight different cities held events and actions. The events ranged from a pancake breakfast, to a BBQ, to a rally in the park. These events were successful because members took time to coordinate these actions in their areas and brought their friends and families out to support. They proudly wore their “Harper Hates Me” buttons and “We Are All Affected” t-shirts to say enough is enough. Community members and organizations also attended events to voice their concerns about the ongoing cuts, their support for PSAC members, and their offer to stand with us in the fight.

Earlier this year, Agriculture Local 30048 in Lethbridge, banded together to promote PSAC’s “We Are All Affected” campaign by tracking spending in their community to demonstrate how PSAC members contribute to the local economy. After compiling the data, they took out an ad in the Lethbridge Herald. They followed up on the ad by distributing flyers in the community, contacting city councilors and local businesses, writing a letter to the editor of the local paper, and participating in a radio interview. The concept caught the attention of other Locals who reproduced the action in other regions.

Members also attended the holiday open house for Jim Hillyer, Conservative MP for Lethbridge Constituency, to ask him what he was doing to stop the cuts to jobs and public services in the community. Hillyer was clearly uncomfortable and insisted they set up a meeting at a later date. The video was posted to YouTube and shared on the PSAC Prairie Region Facebook page.

In Prince Albert, we’ve done a lot of work around the government’s decision to stop grooming ski trails in PA National Park, and a handful of other parks across the country, including Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park, Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park, and Alberta’s Elk Island National Park. Tim Hogan, the Prince Albert Area Council PRC Rep, spoke with media, and we’ve sent letters to the editors of newspapers and local MPs denouncing the cutbacks and the government’s willingness to allow volunteer organizations to assume the burden of maintaining the ski trails.

I continue to meet with the Federal Councils in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to discuss how we can work together to support and assist affected members.  Federal Councils continue to provide us with information on available positions and training opportunities that we include in our e-newsletter and website.

COMMITTEE ACTIVITIES

The Lethbridge Area Council and Agriculture Local 30048 completed their annual garden project, which continues to grow and produced almost 50 per cent more produce than last year. This year, they were able to donate 3,337 pounds of produce valued at $6,675 to the Lethbridge Interfaith Food Bank.

The Westman RWC and AC once again participated in the Brandon Christmas Tree Auction, the annual United Way fundraiser in which different organizations decorate Christmas trees to be auctioned off. The decorated trees are then delivered to families in need around the city.

The Winnipeg Area Council, as part of a Social Justice Fund project, supported Friends Housing Inc., a local apartment block that’s home to 31 tenants, diagnosed with a long-term, mental illness. What makes Friends Housing Inc. unique is that they offer tenants daily programing and activities. The support from PSAC assisted with these daily tenant activities and enabled tenants and their families to attend Canad Inns Winter Wonderland, a festive seasonal drive through light display held over the holidays.

Leading up to the holiday season, the Winnipeg HRC purchased scarves, mittens and toques for children in Winnipeg’s inner city communities. The recipient of the donation was Kookum’s Place Daycare, a division of the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resources Development (CAHRD).

The Winnipeg RWC participated in the Dec. 6th Memorial Luncheon in honour of the women who lost their lives to violence. The MFL Women’s Committee sponsored the annual luncheon, with proceeds going to the MFL Women’s Memorial Fund. The guest speaker was Sister Barbara Byers from the CLC.

The Calgary Area Council finished up its Work Sock Project just before the holidays in support of the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre, a shelter for the homeless or at risk. Committee members put a call out to Locals for socks of all shapes and sizes, and then stuffed the donated items with soap, shampoo, mitts, toques, and sweets. In total, two boxes of about 50 Christmas socks were handed over for gift giving to those people hosted by the Centre, with an additional 30 pairs of socks also given for the Centre to stock for future distribution.

In Regina, the RWC, HRC, and AC worked together on the “Community Helping Hands Project” in support of Ranch Erlo, a charitable organization dedicated to providing support and community services that improve the lives of children, youth and their families. For the past two years the Committees have collected school supplies for Ranch Erlo to distribute to inner-city youth in need. In 2011, 20 youth were assisted through the effort. For 2012, the number more than doubled, with 45 youth receiving supplies from the seven large boxes collected by the Committees.

During the holidays, the Edmonton Area Council asked Locals to put forward names of members that have been affected by the federal government cuts and are in need of additional support. The Committee provided baskets to three families. Members from the Edmonton RWC attended an event for Remembrance Day, presenting a wreath on behalf of the Committee. They also attended the AFL’s First Mourn, Then Live for Change brunch held in honour of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Members of the Saskatoon RWC got together to make Purple Ribbons for PSAC’s Purple Ribbon campaign. The sisters who attended made over 600 ribbons for distribution to Locals. Along with the ribbons, they also made purple cards that explain the purple ribbon movement, asking members to wear the ribbons to demonstrate that “We Are All Affected” by the cuts, and we oppose them.  

Additionally, the RWC purchased gifts for 12 girls for the Operation Christmas Child (Shoebox Gifts) fundraiser. The boxes are made and distributed to a child who would normally have little to look forward to at Christmas. The boxes were filled with pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, note pads, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, brushes, hair clips and accessories, stuffed animals, harmonicas, bracelets, and hard candy. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Venezuela are some of the countries that the boxes were destined for.

CONFERENCES/COURSES

Unionism on Turtle Island was held in Winnipeg, September 26-30. The course brought together 17 PSAC members of varying age groups and experience levels from across the Prairie Region. The focus was Indigenous issues, including the history of oppression and resistance, Aboriginal issues at the bargaining table, creating a representative workforce, and opening the union to Aboriginal activists.

The 2012 Prairie Region Health and Safety Conference was held November 17-18 in Edmonton, with PSAC members from across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. In response to the continually growing number of concerns brought forward by members and in response to member supported resolutions from the 5th Triennial Prairie Region Convention, the overall theme dealt with Mental Health in the Workplace, with particular attention to the impact and prevention of bullying.

Unfortunately, due to low registration, we cancelled the Prairies Separate Employer Conference “Building a Better Union!” set to be held October 26-28, 2012 in Winnipeg. This would have been our second conference of this nature, specifically designed for representatives of our members who work for separate employers and DCL’s in the Prairie Region. We’re hoping to reschedule in the coming year.

The 6th Triennial Prairie Region Convention will be held June 27-29, 2014 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan at TCU Place, Saskatoon’s Arts & Convention Centre. In a special conference call of the Prairie Region Council, PRC Reps considered the available options in Saskatoon and Regina, before voting in favour of holding Convention 2014 in Saskatoon. Convention was last held June 10-12, 2011 in Winnipeg at the Fairmont Winnipeg. An official Convention call will be distributed throughout the Prairie Region to all Locals, Committees, and Area Councils in fall 2013 asking for delegate registration and resolutions.

After holding an election for Prairies Alternate REVP, Sister Deb Ferguson of USGE Local 30010 in Edmonton was elected. She was sworn in at her first Prairie Region Council meeting in October. Now, we will hold another by-election among delegates who attended the 2011 Prairies Regional Convention in order to elect a new Young Workers Representative and Alternate. The election will take place in the coming weeks with a new Rep in place by the next PRC meeting in April.

The PRC Education Committee is reviewing results from the education survey and eight town hall meetings held across the region where members discussed what they want from their union education program. The Committee will be developing a plan for the PSAC Prairie Region for 2013-15.

A new one-day course, “A Woman’s Place Is In Her Union” was held in four regional offices as a follow up to the 2012 “Women at Work” course. Participants learned a lot about the herstory of women in labour and the workplace, and in PSAC specifically, as well as the challenges women continue to face and their struggles to achieve equality. Feedback was very positive, and Sisters appreciated the chance to get together to meet other Sisters with similar interests and to learn more about their union. This important work will continue at the Prairies Regional Women’s Conference, to be held in Banff, May 3-5, 2013. 

CAMPAIGNS

The Union of National Employees and the PSAC Prairie Region have launched “Don’t Sell Our Hot Springs,” a campaign around the privatization of the Banff Upper Hot Springs, Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park, and Radium Hot Springs in B.C. Members have been actively promoting this campaign in these areas by visiting local businesses and distributing postcards and posters throughout the community. We also held a town hall meeting inviting the community to share their concerns about the privatization. Visit dontselloursprings.ca to sign the petition and get involved.

We’re working with the Agriculture Union on the “Protect the Prairie” campaign to oppose the elimination of the Shelter Belt program and PFRA pastures program. There are several proposals that we’re aware of to take over management of the FPRA pastures in Saskatchewan including one submitted by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. A proposal from the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities is still expected. Agriculture members have already collected more than 12,000 signatures on a petition in Saskatchewan and at depot where trees are distributed.  In December, representatives from PSAC, CPAWS and SES met with Lyle Stewart, the Saskatchewan Minister of Agriculture, to express our concerns. A similar meeting is being planned for Manitoba.

Over 600 delegates at the SFL Convention in November passed two resolutions from PSAC including one supporting PSAC’s “We Are All Affected” campaign and an emergency resolution to support the “Protect the Prairie” campaign and commitment to sign the petition. The most popular trend among delegates was PSAC’s “Harper Hates Me “buttons, which were distributed at the PSAC table. The buttons were an unbelievable hit, with nearly every delegate proudly wearing a button and taking extras for their families. Some MLA’s also took a button, though they weren’t allowed to wear it inside the Legislative Building.

During the SFL Convention, we were invited by the official opposition to attend the introduction of Bill 604, a private member’s bill to create an asbestos registry of all public buildings under the Public Health Act. This is something Brother Howard Willems worked very hard for and we were honoured to attend on his behalf and support the NDP in advancing the issue.

ORGANIZING

Employees working for the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD) have joined the PSAC. Following a challenging organizing drive, an application was filed on June 14, 2012, with considerable support from CAHRD employees. The Manitoba Labour Board certified the unit on September 14, 2012. Almost 100 workers, ranging from employment counselors to childcare workers and teachers, join the nearly 20 other First Nations employers and bargaining units represented by PSAC. Members have met several times already to elect their executive for Local 55602 and for training. They hope to begin bargaining next month.

On October 22, 2012, the Manitoba Labour Board certified PSAC as the bargaining agent for all research assistants and student assistants employed at Brandon University. Local 55601 comprises nearly 400 members employed annually by the university. At their first general meeting on December 3, 2012, members elected the bargaining team and executive for PSAC Local 55601. Brandon University is the seventh new bargaining unit certified in the PSAC Prairie Region in the last two years and the third Directly Chartered Local.

CELEBRATING A LIFE

PSAC Prairies members lost a colleague, friend and brother, with the passing of Brother Howard Willems in November. Howard worked as an inspector with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for more than 30 years before retiring in early 2012. After being diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos related cancer of the lungs, two years ago, Howard dedicated the final years of his life to advocating for asbestos awareness and protection with the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (SADAO).

With SADAO, he fought to establish a public registry right up to his last day and his struggle will not be in vain. We are now working together with SADAO, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Saskatchewan Lung Association to raise awareness and lobby the provincial government to implement Bill 604 which would make reporting of asbestos in public buildings mandatory. Brother Willems was also recently named the 2012 CBC Saskatchewan Person of the Year and was awarded the SFL Bob Sass Occupational Health and Safety Award at the SFL Convention just prior to his passing.

Respectfully submitted,

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