Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the National Board of Directors, submitted for the June 10-13, 2014 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
June 10-13, 2014
This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting.
In March we submitted our regional strategic plan outlining our planned activities for March through September. The approved plan included a telephone town hall around sick leave and bargaining, which we held on April 30, and an advanced mail out to all Prairies members notifying them of the town hall and other important information. A conference call was held with Prairies National Officers prior to the town hall to provide an update on the regional strategy and get feedback.
Despite some technical difficulties from our service provider Stratcom, our telephone town hall was a success. More than 65 per cent of the people we called picked up the phone live, compared to 47 per cent as an overall average for unions and associations. The average number of minutes that a Prairies member stayed on the call was 31 minutes, more than double the average of 15 minutes. I have no doubt that our increased promotional efforts in advance resulted in the strong outcome for the event.
Additionally, regional reps are reaching out to each and every local to discuss bargaining issues and determine scheduling of local onsite meetings. Where possible, lunch time meetings will be set up at each and every local to meet with members and provide information regarding sick leave and bargaining. PSAC will also hold multi-local meetings at nine locations throughout the region with a number of meetings in the larger centres.These meetings will be an opportunity for members to speak up, provide feedback and get involved. All members from all employers are invited to attend and provide feedback in the ongoing fight back and share ideas for what we can do together to combat concessions and cuts to public services.
For members outside of the regional office areas, we will host an online webinar. We will also be using the webinar format to reach members across the region on an ongoing basis. These webinars will provide educational opportunities on important issues as identified by members and leaders in the region and ensure we maintain the momentum from our meetings throughout bargaining and into the 2015 federal election.
Committees throughout the region have also been busy planning their activities for the months ahead. Many have held AGMs, elected new representatives to their executives, and planned meetings for the rest of the year. Committees are also working together within their regional office areas to strategize on how best to address the continued attacks on public services and unions.
For the National Day of Mourning on April 28, members from the Saskatoon Area Council and Lethbridge RWC attended events in their areas. The Calgary Area Council also attended a Day of Mourning ceremony and presented a wreath on behalf of PSAC members in honour of the 188 Albertans who died on the job in 2013, one of the highest rates in Canada.
Regional Women’s Committees throughout the Prairies marked International Women’s Day on March 8 by attending different events. The Saskatoon RWC attended a community brunch, while the Calgary RWC participated in a potluck and celebration. Committee members used a PSAC prize wheel to engage the more than 200 attendees in discussions about women’s rights and women’s “herstory”.
Members from the Calgary Women’s Committee also attended a fundraising event for Women Together Ending Poverty. The fundraiser was to raise money for three homeless women from Calgary who had been selected to attend the All Our Sisters 2014 National Forum, the second national forum on women and homelessness.
To honour women in Lethbridge, the Regional Women’s Committee held an event for women at a local swimming pool offering free admission for women. The event was a success, with more than 100 women in attendance.
The Winnipeg Human Rights Committee purchased baby formula and blankets to donate to Winnipeg Harvest to ensure low-income families have the supplies they need to care for their families. This is an initiative they plan to continue on an ongoing basis.
Each year the month of June brings Pride activities throughout the Prairie Region and PSAC members are always front and center for all the festivities. The Winnipeg Human Rights Committee plans to attend the parade, as they do each and every year, and have sent notices to all locals and committees to invite other members to participate. In Regina, the HRC is a sponsor for Queen City Pride and will be participating in the parade. They also plan to set up an information booth at the picnic after the parade.
VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICE CLOSURES
We were proud to support veterans and PSAC members working for Veterans Affairs Canada at protests and events across the country to mark the closures of Veterans Affairs offices in eight communities, including in Brandon and Saskatoon.
Despite the bitter cold, more than 50 people gathered outside the Veterans Affairs Canada office in Brandon on January 31 to witness the closure of the office and the loss of face-to-face services to veterans. Local veterans who served in WWII, the Korean War, the War in Afghanistan and representatives from the RCMP Veterans’ Association attended to speak out against the closure and call on Brandon-Souris MP Larry Maguire, Minster for Veterans Affairs Julian Fantino and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reopen the offices and fully restore the face-to-face services veterans deserve.
In Saskatoon, veterans gathered for a press conference at the Delta Bessborough organized by PSAC. Every media outlet in the city attended and spoke to veterans about their experiences. Thank you to Brother Yvan Thauvette for coming to the Prairies to attend and speak at the press conference.
PSAC members in Lethbridge, along with CUPW and the Lethbridge District Labour Council, also organized a small rally and march in solidarity with the veterans. Lethbridge wasn’t one of the communities affected, but members recognized the importance of raising awareness of the issue since we are all affected by the loss of public services.
We also ran a series of advertisements in community newspapers and an extensive transit shelter campaign, which was extended by the advertising agency pro bono. The ads shed light on the irresponsible cuts by the federal government and called on Harper to reverse the decision and provide veterans with the services they deserve.
PRAIRIES VIDEO PROJECT
I am very proud to announce that PSAC Prairies was awarded the Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM) award for “Best narrative video, or video series documentary” for the Prairies Video Project. We also received honourable mention for “Best photograph” for a photo from our “Crash The(ir) Party!” political rally in Calgary.
The Prairies Video Project is very important to me. Never before have we collected and shared members’ stories in such an intimate and compelling way. I was lucky enough to be on location for the interviews across the Prairies and to speak with these members first hand. I’m delighted that everyone can share in the insights and experiences that these members shared with us, and that the project is receiving national recognition.
Over the past couple months we’ve added more videos to the series. To recognize National Day of Mourning, we released a special edition to highlight asbestos awareness and the work of the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (SADAO), a non-profit organization co-founded by former PSAC member Howard Willems. We also looked back at the historic Idle No More movement. PSAC members and activists shared their stories and discussed why the Idle No More movement and labour movement work so well together as allies.
Other videos have included member services, the importance of sick leave and the value of unions. Our next video will coincide with Pride month. The video features stories from GLBT members about their experiences in their workplace and in their union.
PROPOSED SALE OF CASINO REGINA
In February, the Saskatchewan Party government was forced to disclose that they were in discussions with the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority to sell Casino Regina and Casino Moose Jaw, which are currently provincial Crown Corporations. The NDP Official Opposition contacted PSAC and went public with the information.
Since PSAC represents more than 400 members at Casino Regina, I attended a meeting with NDP Leader Cam Broten and several PSAC members from the local to provide information and feedback. Several weeks later, while the Premier would not agree to meet with PSAC members, the same delegation met with Minister of Labour Don Morgan who advised that the sale is no longer on the table. We will continue to monitor as this could potentially re-surface in a hurry or during the next provincial election.
SOCIAL JUSTICE FUND
From March 21 – April 4 PSAC members participated in PSAC’s Social Justice Fund delegation to Guatemala. They supported the efforts of grassroots organizations to improve livelihoods of locals through initiatives based on social justice and fair trade.
Jen Botincan, a UNDE member from Winnipeg, was selected to participate in this opportunity. Participants worked together to build schools and community centres. Jen wrote a series of blog entries about the life changing experiences, which have been posted to the Prairies website.
Several bargaining units in the Prairies have recently ratified new collective agreements. Members employed by Regina Airport Authority and those working for Pro-Tec, offering fire services at Saskatoon International Airport, both ratified agreements last month. Members at All Nations’ Healing Hospital in Fort Qu’Appelle also recently negotiated a new deal and will hold a ratification vote in the coming weeks.
As we prepare to exchange proposals with Treasury Board and head into bargaining with Parks Canada, many of our smaller regional units are also heading to the table. Freshwater Fish, Sodexo, Saskatoon Airport Authority, and the Royal Canadian Mint––the new group of security officers in Winnipeg and both of the Ottawa and Winnipeg plants––are up for renewal and are preparing to go to the table.
The Prairies Regional Convention is just around the corner, and plans are well under way. Convention will be held in Saskatoon and our host committee is eager to welcome delegates from throughout the Prairies to their city. We’re expecting nearly 300 delegates, as well as close to 50 more observers and guests. With 75 resolutions submitted, there is sure to be a lot of interesting debate and discussions.
All eight of the Area Councils in the Prairies have held elections for Prairie Region Council Representative. Welcome to those members who will be joining us for the first time and congratulations to all. The Area Council PRC Reps will be sworn in at Convention and the remaining PRC positions will be elected at Convention in their respective caucuses.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies