NBoD Report (Feb. 7-10, 2012)

Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the National Board of Directors, submitted for the February 7-10, 2012 meeting. This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting.



February 7-10, 2012

This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting.

Prairies on Patrol

In November, we held leadership meetings in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Calgary, as part of our ongoing Prairies on Patrol fight back efforts. In total, we had RVPs, NVPs, PRC members, and leaders from 104 locals participate.

These meetings were an opportunity to engage our leaders in a dialogue about how we can work together to effect change in our locals and in our communities. It was a chance to ask our leaders to support some very important campaigns, and to also to find out how we can help, and the resources needed, to accomplish our goals.

Members were especially interested to discuss the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and their attacks on public service workers. Referencing the resources developed nationally, we discussed the best ways to dispel the myths being spread by CFIB President Catherine Swift, and how to promote the benefits of strong public services. Prairie leaders had many great ideas on how we can fight back against the CFIB.

Additionally, we discussed the national petition to Treasury Board President Tony Clement, and the urgency to get as many signatures as possible. Following our meetings, leaders made a concerted effort to add to the petition by organizing special events. One example is Local 50031 organizing a coffee and donuts day and took the opportunity to speak to members about how cuts to services undermine our safety, our health and our environment. More than 550 members committed their support to strong public services and left with informational flyers on the planned cuts to share with friends and colleagues.

Spirit of Giving

During the holidays, PSAC members across the region participated in activities and special events to help give back in their communities. The Winnipeg AC, for example, donated to the Manitoba Federation of Labour’s Christmas Tree Project, which provides winter clothing to children at schools in low-income areas of Winnipeg.

The Westman Area Council participated in the Brandon Christmas Tree Auction, the annual United Way fundraiser in which different businesses and groups decorate Christmas trees to be auctioned off. The decorated trees are then delivered to families in need around the city. The Westman AC decorated a tree, which sold for $1,150 at auction.

In Edmonton, the Human Rights Committee donated their time to assist at the Inglewood Community Centre festive dinner. This annual event reaches out to low-income families in the community around the holidays and 10 volunteers from the HRC came out to assist. The Edmonton RWC donated to the WIN House III, a shelter to support immigrant women affected by domestic violence, by giving four families each a Superstore gift card to buy food, clothes, or toys.

The Saskatoon RWC organized their annual drive for the YWCA and AIDS Saskatoon to collect items for the shelter including new blankets and pillows. They donated toiletries, as well as baby bottles and baby food, to YWCA Women’s Shelter, AIDS Saskatoon, EGADZ, and Interval House.

Sisters in Winnipeg put together 236 packages of toiletries collected and donated by PSAC members and staff on their travels throughout the year. The packages were donated to the Macgregor Community Care Site. Additional toiletries were donated to Villa Rosa, a prenatal and postnatal residence offering a wide variety of programs in a safe and nurturing environment, to be used as gifts and stocking stuffers for the residents.

Empowering Equality

PSAC young worker Rachel Albiez, CEIU local 30858 in Lethbridge, Alberta, participated in PSAC’s Social Justice Fund Young Workers Delegation to Central America. Sister Albiez saw first handthe beneficial outcomes of union international solidarity and social justice programs. She walked away from the trip with a deeper understanding that labour and human rights need to be defended and fought for, and the impassioned desire to do so.

Throughout her trip, she kept an active travel log by posting regular blog entries and photos to the Prairies Region website. The blog offered great insight into what the experience was like for her and the other young workers, and allowed other PSAC members to share in this invaluable opportunity.

Area Activism

Two of the provinces in the Prairie region had provincial elections this past fall, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and our area councils in those provinces were busy encouraging members to get out and vote for labour friendly candidates. Area Councils targeted 4,300 PSAC members in Manitoba and 3,000 in Saskatchewan with a package of information asking members to think about public services and building better communities when casting their vote.

We also hosted a telephone town hall for the Manitoba election as a way to allow members to learn about election issues. Brother Kevin Rebeck, President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, joined me to discuss the priorities that affect working families. 

The Winnipeg AC continues their partnership with the McGregor Community Care Site under the Social Justice Fund initiative. The Winnipeg AC was allotted additional monies to work in 2012 with the Friends Housing Inc., a non-profit housing development for adults with chronic mental illness.

Meanwhile, the Westman AC SJF work has focused on the ever-growing challenge of homelessness and poverty in Brandon and Dauphin.

The Lethbridge Area Council completed their annual garden project which, this year, produced more 2,000 pounds of food valued at over of $4,000, to be donated to the Lethbridge Interfaith Food Bank.

The Edmonton Area Council participated in the Habitat for Humanity build with 15 PSAC members and staff. Everyone enjoyed their time and thought it was a very worthwhile activity. The Area Council hopes to do it again this year.

Sisters in Solidarity

The Winnipeg RWC collected 20 boxes of school supplies and close to $1,200 for the annual school supplies drive. The school supplies were donated to inner city schools in need and the monies will help fund inner city school lunch programs.

In recognition of December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, sisters across the region helped organize, sponsored, and participated in various events such as the AFL brunch, University of Calgary vigil, MFL luncheon, and candle light ceremony in Saskatoon.

Additionally, sisters in Saskatoon helped organize the Take Back the Night event, and were front and centre with their PSAC flags on the walk. There were more than 350 walkers in attendance.

Looking Ahead

We are continuing to make progress in negotiations for the first collective agreement at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the local is now fully functional. The newly certified local at the University of Winnipeg, representing teaching assistants, tutors, lab demonstrators and markers, is also making headway and had their first AGM in December. Meanwhile, the Manitoba Labour Board recently certified PSAC as the bargaining agent for a group of about 30 English Language Program instructors employed at the University of Winnipeg.

In the coming months we will hold a series of steward assemblies to build steward networks and get them to recruit new stewards where necessary.

We will also begin preparation for the regional health & safety conference. One aspect we hope to focus on is the government’s antiquated and, frankly, dangerous, asbestos policy. PSAC Prairies member Howard Willems recently had a lung removed because of an asbestos-related cancer, so this is a cause we support wholeheartedly.

Respectfully submitted,

Robyn Benson
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies