NBoD Report (June 2-5, 2015)

Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the National Board of Directors, submitted for the June 2-5, 2015 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 2-5, 2015

This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting.

ALBERTA PROVINCIAL ELECTION

Alberta’s NDP won the May 5 provincial election by a landslide, sweeping to power with a majority mandate. The NDP gained 49 seats for a total of 53 out of the 87 seats in the Legislature. PSAC Area Council presidents in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge mailed a joint letter to members encouraging them to vote and get involved in the election.

We are proud to see three PSAC members elected as NDP MLAs, including David Shepherd (UTE member) in Edmonton-Centre, Maria Fitzpatrick (USGE member) in Lethbridge East, and Oneil Carlier (former Agriculture member & PSAC Edmonton Regional Rep) in Whitecourt-Ste Anne. We look forward to working together with them on important issues for our members in Alberta.

It was a truly inspiring night for PSAC members and Albertans who favour socially progressive policies that support working families, protect our environment and invest in our future. The results give us renewed hope and determination heading into the federal election. If we can make change happen in a province with a 44-year Progressive Conservative stronghold ––the longest unbroken run in government at the provincial or federal level in Canadian history–– we can make change happen anywhere.

REGIONAL STRATEGIC PLAN

We continue to work on the activities outlined in our regional strategic plan. 

On March 16, the PSAC Prairie Region hosted a telephone town hall for Treasury Board members to give updates on Treasury Board bargaining and answer questions. We called nearly 10,000 PSAC members employed by Treasury Board throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

We also held another round of multi-local meetings throughout the region to update members on bargaining issues, our continued fight for sick leave, the upcoming federal election, and more. Over twenty meetings were held in nine different locations throughout March, April and May.

Webinar Wednesday continues to grow in popularity. The monthly, interactive webinars are an outlet for members to learn about critical issues, get important updates and ask questions. To date, we’ve held four webinars on bargaining, retirement, childcare and political action. Our May webinar was scheduled to be about labour history, however, given the recent attacks on sick leave and collective bargaining in the federal budget, we changed the topic to focus on sick leave. In June, the topic will be health and safety.

As part of our ongoing Prairies Video Project, we interviewed several PSAC members in Lethbridge who are currently undergoing cancer treatments. They described their experiences and how invaluable their sick leave has been for them and their families. That video is now available on the PSAC Prairies YouTube channel or the PSAC Prairies website. We will also be compiling all of the Prairies Video Project videos onto USB sticks to share with locals.

In March, we mailed out a newsletter to PSAC Prairies members containing important updates, including information about the webinars, multi-local meetings, telephone town hall and 19th Day of Action. This information went out to over 20,000 members.

Working with a specialist, we produce a detailed political analysis of the Prairie Region. All eight area councils in the Prairies have been provided with a printed copy of this important information, which will be an invaluable resource as they prepare and plan for the upcoming federal election.

Prairies members were in attendance at all three of the CLC’s Election Preparation Conferences, in Edmonton, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.

PSAC Prairies was proud to sponsor Public Interest Alberta’s Advocacy Conference. The conference brought together key leaders and advocates to envision what a just and fair Alberta would look like and how we can work together to make it happen. The speakers were top-notch and the discussion was relevant at the federal level, as well. Our support helped bring Avi Lewis, award-winning documentary filmmaker and television journalist, to the conference as the keynote speaker.

19TH DAY OF ACTION

On March 19, PSAC members participated in actions and stood together for healthy workplaces. Hundreds of members participated in a dozen different actions held throughout the Prairies.

Members held rallies in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg, with strong support from PSAC members and affiliates and fabulous guest speakers to get the crowds fired up. Members outside of those major event centres also took part by posing for photos outside the workplace in coordinated colours or holding PSAC flags.

The day before, UTE took part in a national bargaining action. In Edmonton, UTE members wore red and stood together for a photo outside the workplace. In Regina, UTE members had “I Support My Bargaining Team” t-shirts made and took a group photo wearing them. In Winnipeg, the UTE Local held a rally over the lunch hour

All of these events are very popular among members and are getting members mobilized who aren’t typically involved in union activities. For the May 19 Day of Action, members will focus on communicating and contacting federal MPs, as they are back in their home riding for the week of May 19-22, 2015.

COMMITTEES IN ACTION

PSAC sisters recognized March 8 International Women’s Day by participating in various activities throughout the region. In Calgary, the RWC held an event under the theme,  “Make It Happen”. The event was co-hosted with a number of unions and non-profit groups, including the Women’s Centre of Calgary and the Alberta Network of Immigrant Women, and was well attended by over 200 women. The Saskatoon RWC event was also held in conjunction with other community organizations.

Providing support to those less fortunate continues to be a priority for PSAC members in the Prairie Region. In March, the Winnipeg Human Rights Committee volunteered at Siloam Mission, an organization that provides meals, clothing and services to Winnipeg’s homeless community. After a tour of the facilities, they spent time helping out and assisting with sorting clothes, among other tasks.

The Winnipeg Area Council launched a new partnership with Ndinawe, an integrated service organization for youth, focusing on shelter, education, outreach and support. With funding from PSAC’s Social Justice Fund, the Area Council was able to purchase small appliances and equipment for use in their kitchen, as well as food to start a meal program. Next, Area Council members will work with Ndinawe to start a container gardening program, using old recycling bins and other containers to produce vegetables to use in the kitchen.

In Regina, the RWC raised money for Sofia House, which delivers essential programs that support abused women and children when they leave emergency shelters or are referred from other agencies. The money was raised with donations from attendees of the RWC-organized self-defense for women class. The event was well attended and instructed by a member and certified trainer from Local 40005.

Regional Women’s Committees across the Prairies have been inviting special guest speakers to meetings to give members a new perspective on important issues. In Winnipeg, the RWC welcomed RCMP Corporal Bettina Schaible, a founding member and investigator on the Manitoba Integrated Task Force on Missing and Murdered Women, to speak about the project and her experience as a female police officer.

The Calgary RWC welcomed Brenda Crompton from the Brenda Strafford Society, a shelter for women and their children who have fled domestic violence. Brenda spoke about how she changed her life for the better, after growing up in foster homes and a cycle of abuse. On another occasion, UTE member Victoria Budd did a two-hour presentation on the effect of racism towards Aboriginal peoples and the intergenerational impact.

Members from the Calgary Area Council, RWC and HRC worked together with members from the Lethbridge Area Council and RWC to come up with the perfect way to let Stephen Harper know exactly how they feel. They developed a special Valentine’s Day card that read, “Dear Steve: Roses are red, violets are blue. We want a new Prime Minister, and it isn’t you!” The message was shared on social media.

In February, PSAC members distributed postcards condemning the closures of Veterans Affairs offices across Canada, including the Brandon office, which provided services to 2,400 clients. Members of the PSAC Westman Area Council organized this initiative by rounding up a team of volunteers to flag down cars just past the port of entry at Boissevain. Dozens of cars pulled over, despite the freezing temperatures, to discuss the impact of the closures for our veterans. Those who pulled over were very interested in learning more and took extra postcards to distribute to their friends.

BARGAINING UPDATE

More than 1,100 academic workers at the University of Saskatchewan have joined the PSAC. The bargaining unit was certified by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board on April 23, 2015 and comprises all registered graduate students, including teaching assistants, teaching fellows, student assistants and research assistants. The academic workers voted 96 per cent in favour of joining PSAC. We will work to establish a local executive and bargaining team to begin negotiation on their first collective agreement.

Negotiations continue with the University of Winnipeg and Avion Services Corporation, which include the security guards at the Winnipeg Airport, as well as the Royal Canadian Mint and the Winnipeg Protective Services Officers at the Mint. After we filed an unfair labour practice several months ago, Churchill Marine Tank Farm Company has agreed to resume negotiations. If an agreement is not reached, we will proceed with the ULP as scheduled. 

Notice to bargain has been served to the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD) and Winnipeg Airport Authority. Both collective agreements expire this summer.

Members working for the Saskatoon Airport Authority recently ratified their collective agreement after several months of bargaining.

CONFERENCES & EDUCATION

Over 300 members received PSAC training through the 18 courses held during the first quarter of 2015. This includes the Leading Change course held in Winnipeg, January 30-31. The two-day course brought together 45 leaders who will help move our union forward, including those elected to Component Executives, Regional Councils, NAPC, and the National Human Rights Committee.

We were pleased to host Step 2 of UDP West/North in the Prairies. The first face-to-face meeting of the UDP group was held in Winnipeg, March 19-22, with 21 participants, including 7 from the Prairies. Thank you to Bob Jackson and Jack Bourassa for coming to speak with participants. I’d also like to extend a special thanks to the facilitation team for their ongoing hard work and dedication to ensure the New UDP is a total success.

The 2015 AFL Convention was held in Calgary, April 15-19, under the theme “Dream No Little Dreams: How and Why Unions Need to Redefine the Possible”. More than 400 labour activists and leaders, including a small delegation of PSAC members, attended the convention.

Respectfully submitted,

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