Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the National Board of Directors, submitted for the February 23-26, 2016 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 23-26, 2016
This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting.
NEW YEAR, NEW MANDATE
With the election of Justin Trudeau and the new Liberal government, Prairies members are looking forward to open dialogue with MPs and are eager to participate in PSAC’s national lobbying efforts.
While it was disappointing to see the NDP lose so many seats across the country in the federal election, it was heartening to see the increased voter turnout––the highest since 1993––and the overwhelming message from Canadians that we deserve better and expect more from our government. We hope we can maintain that momentum for the provincial elections in Saskatchewan (April 4, 2016) and Manitoba (April 19, 2016).
In the lead up to the federal election, Siobhan Vipond, Secretary-Treasurer for the Alberta Federation of Labour, joined us on our telephone town hall to share her experiences and the important role labour played in the Alberta provincial election. We hope to incorporate some of the lessons learned in Alberta, and more recently in the federal election, to our upcoming provincial elections. We have many members in both provinces under provincial jurisdiction and there is a definite threat to these members from right-wing governments.
In Saskatchewan, Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party government is riding high in the polls, but their dominance is impacting public services across the board. Crown Corporations are at risk of privatization––despite a campaign promise that explicitly stated otherwise––and labour rights are being stomped on. The NDP made headway in several important ridings in Saskatchewan in the federal election, which may signal Saskatchewan residents are ready for progressive representation at the legislature.
In Manitoba, the NDP remains in power, but is increasingly at risk. The alternative is truly frightening; with the Progressive Conservatives promising wide reaching cuts to public services, privatization of profitable Crown Corporations and a right-wing agenda on social issues.
We need to coordinate activities to ensure that our members are aware of the issues, the impact of the various parties on our members, the impact to ALL members who reside in both provinces and to ensure that our members get out to vote. I know PSAC members will step up to the challenge, as they did in the federal election, and work together with other unions and community groups to promote election issues.
We will also be participating in the Federation of Labour campaigns in both provinces, including the Own It! Campaign from the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and the Working Families Manitoba Campaign from the Manitoba Federation of Labour. Visit their websites for more information on these important campaigns.
Letters of introduction have been sent to all Members of Parliament in the region. Several have indicated they would like to meet to discuss our priorities and concerns.
A webinar was held on January 26 for PRC members, national officers and area councils and regional committees (RWC, HRC, RAPC) to discuss implementation of the national lobby campaign. A webinar for all members will be scheduled for mid-February.
All area councils will be contacting locals to recruit members for lobby teams and will be adding a standing agenda item for meetings to review lobby reports.
COMMITTEES IN ACTION
Regional committees and area councils in the Prairies have had a busy few months. Many committees hosted holiday open houses for members and volunteer appreciation events for the dedicated activists who supported our election activities and are involved year-round. These events were in addition to committee members’ ongoing engagement within their communities.
Committees and area councils participated in Remembrance Day events throughout the region. In Edmonton, members from the HRC, RWC and Area Council attended ceremonies to pay their respects and lay wreaths. The Saskatoon Area Council and RWC purchased a wreath and participated in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Saskatoon.
Prairie sisters continued their involvement in December 6 events honouring the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The Saskatoon RWC held an event at the regional office to commemorate the 26th anniversary with a candlelight vigil and photo display. The PRC RWC Rep Nancy Johnson gave a presentation, which provided insight into why we celebrate that date and the work that the PSAC has been involved in to raise awareness. PSAC’s Women’s Forum was also discussed, including how PSAC can move forward to bring this issue to the members through formal education. In Winnipeg, RWC members took part in the MFL’s memorial luncheon. Lethbridge sisters also participated in their local event.
It was also the season of giving, as evidenced by our committees’ involvement with and donations to local charities. Hot chocolate and cookies were provided to the Metis Friendship Center for their Christmas Dinner on behalf of the Saskatoon RWC and Area Council. The Winnipeg RWC made an annual donation to Kent Road School in support of the breakfast program and supported the MFL Christmas Tree Project, which supports children in need. The Edmonton RWC held a toque and socks drive. Committee members delivered hundreds of toques, socks and toiletries to Mustard Seed to be delivered to the homeless during the holidays.
The Calgary Area Council held a CLIFF film night to watch and review a series of short films developed for the International Labour Film Festival. The Edmonton RWC hosted a domestic violence information session with a guest speaker from United Way.
While outside this particular NBoD reporting period, I must mention an important activity that wasn’t included in the October report. Saskatoon RWC members participated in Sisters in Spirit vigils held on October 4, marking the 10th anniversary for the Saskatoon event. The Saskatoon RWC was recognized at the event for their support over the years in raising awareness on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. PSAC members have participated in searches and provided food and refreshment to volunteers. In Lethbridge, RWC members once again participated in the local Sisters in Spirit and Take Back the Night events.
COURSES AND CONFERENCES
Over 60 members attended seven regional education meetings over the past couple months to provide feedback and suggestions for union education. Members applauded PSAC education for providing the chance for members to meet other members from outside their locals and components and to learn from each other. Looking ahead, we will try to incorporate some of their new ideas to make the program more effective; including offering education in a variety of times, places and formats. We also received suggestions to help promote the education program and will develop some new tools to assist. The PRC Education Committee participated in their local meetings and will prepare a draft education plan, which will be circulated for feedback before it gets finalized in the spring.
The 2015 Prairie Region Health & Safety Conference was held November 21-22, 2015 in Winnipeg with over 60 PSAC members in attendance from across the Prairies.
Members were treated to a rousing and informative keynote speech by Dr. Leigh Quesnel on the topic of “Towards a Healthy Workplace: Understanding Psychological Harassment and Bullying.” Dr. Quesnel specializes in such areas as workplace wellness, creating respectful workplaces, managing bullying and psychological harassment, and stress management, among others. We’ve posted his speech on the Prairies website.
Over the course of two days, members participated in three workshops, including: Representing Members with DI and WCB Concerns, Medical Privacy – What Info the Employer is Entitled to and When, and Mental Health First Aid. On Sunday afternoon, Brother Bob Kingston gave a presentation on violence prevention in the workplace.
Over 20 Prairies members participated in the popular Unionism on Turtle Island course December 12-16, 2015 at the PSAC Edmonton Regional Office. This course was offered to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members as a means of sharing stories and perspectives. Participants explored important issues such as the history of oppression and resistance, Aboriginal issues at the bargaining table, creating a representative workforce and opening the union to Aboriginal activists.
Work is underway for our next two regional conferences. The inaugural Prairies Racially Visible Conference will be held September 9-11, 2016, in Winnipeg and the Prairies Regional Women’s Conference will be held June 11-12, 2016, in Winnipeg.
The Academic Capacity Unit at the University of Winnipeg, consisting of teaching assistants, markers, tutors, and lab demonstrators, met with the employer on January 27 to continue negotiations for their first collective agreement. There is no consistent process in place now for hiring. We are seeking fair and transparent job posting, application and selection processes. We return to the table on February 18-19.
The bargaining team also met with the University of Winnipeg Student Association. The UWSA, along with the faculty union, passed resolutions to call on the university to become a living wage employer. We’re thrilled to have this solidarity.
The University of Saskatchewan unit, consisting of teaching assistants, research assistants and fellows has elected a bargaining team and prepared the initial package of demands for a first collective agreement. Dates to exchange demands are being confirmed for March through April.
Members working for the Royal Canadian Mint (Winnipeg & Ottawa) ratified a new agreement on January 13 and 15. Members are very pleased that sick leave provisions remain intact. The Winnipeg Protective Services Officers unit at the Mint is still in bargaining. The last round was January 26-29, with significant progress made.
The collective agreement for the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development expired on August 7, 2015. We exchanged proposals with the employer on January 19, with the next round scheduled for February 2016.
We exchanged proposals with the Winnipeg Airport Authority (FR) on November 27, 2015. Our next round is scheduled for March 2016.
Members working for the Churchill Marine Tank Farm ratified their first collective agreement. Meanwhile, we issued a notice to bargain for members at Port of Churchill.
Additionally, the input call for Aramark Canada Ltd at 15 Wing Moose Jaw was issued on January 12. The notice to bargain was issued on January 25 for Staff of the Non-Public Funds, CFB Suffield, Alberta. The notice to bargain for the Edmonton Airport Authority for both Firefighters and Fire Captains was issued November 25.
Our region was shaken by the recent violence in La Loche, Saskatchewan. PSAC members throughout the Prairie Region stand together with the residents of La Loche as they mourn the victims of January’s shooting. Four people lost their lives and another seven were injured in this terrible tragedy. Provincial and federal governments must act now and invest in the social services and resources needed in this community along with so many northern communities across Canada. Every Canadian deserves to live in a safe and respectful community.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies