Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the National Board of Directors, submitted for the June 21-24, 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
June 21-24, 2016
This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting in February.
CARE AND SOLIDARITY WITH FORT MCMURRAY
As elected representative for the Prairie Region, I want to express thanks to sisters and brothers who showed what unions are all about during the Fort McMurray wildfires. We were on the ground at Emergency Centres providing direct support for victims. Locals and components donated thousands of dollars in relief funds. I was particularly touched by our colouring book and crayon donation drive for child evacuees. This level of care and solidarity is what we are all about in the labour movement.
We all saw images of billowing flames surrounding escaping car convoys. Entire neighbourhoods were burned to the ground in this tragedy. Fortunately, no deaths or major injuries were reported. We also have to recognize the work that firefighters, emergency care workers and frontline workers did around the clock. Now is the time to help families heal, and to help them rebuild. The PSAC Prairie Region donated $5,000 to Red Cross relief efforts and appealed to components, locals and members to give generously; I am proud to say that everyone stepped up in a big way.
On May 11th, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services sorting centre with two PSAC sisters. The sheer volume of donated goods was as staggering as is the need. We spent hours sorting donations into boxes and getting them ready to ship to evacuee pickup locations. Tiring work but the spirit of the community volunteers shows true Prairie Pride. We know many members are volunteering their own time to assist and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all members and their families for doing what they can.
PROVINCIAL ELECTION OUTCOMES
Provincial elections took place in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba in April with troubling results. Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party remains firmly in power, putting Crown Corporations at risk of privatization––despite a campaign promise that explicitly stated otherwise. In Manitoba, the 16-year NDP government was replaced by an ideologically motivated Progressive Conservative majority government under leader Brian Pallister, who has made openly homophobic and sexist remarks in the recent past. This places public infrastructure like education, health care and labour legislation at risk.
We worked closely with the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and the Manitoba Federation of Labour on their respective provincial election campaigns. We hosted individual telephone town halls with our members in each province and circulated a newsletter to each of our members to provide them with information about the elections, encouraging them to get out there and vote. I also attended a healthcare roundtable with then-Premier Selinger with UVAE RVP for Deer Lodge Centre.
Two PSAC members and one recently retired PSAC member were NDP candidates in the Saskatchewan provincial elections. Unfortunately none were successful in being elected, but their commitment and dedication to their campaigns made us proud to call them PSAC members.
FIGHT FOR 15
PSAC Prairies was prominent in organizing a FF15 event in Winnipeg. PSAC members from the University of Winnipeg in coalition with the students union and the Manitoba Federation of Labour organized a rally and march down Portage Avenue on April 15th to recognize the International Day of Action in the fight for a living wage. Guest speakers included myself, the student union President, MFL President and community anti-poverty leaders. The event, which coincided with the Manitoba provincial election, drew over 200 people on a rainy day.
ALBERTA LABOUR LIAISON
On May 10, I had the pleasure of joining a Labour Liaison meeting in Edmonton with Premier Rachel Notley and members of her cabinet. The provincial government is working closely with the Alberta Federation of Labour and both sides are committed to quarterly labour liaison meetings. The official meeting was followed by a meet and greet with cabinet and other members of the Alberta NDP caucus. That Premier Notley would proceed with a labour liaison meeting in the midst of the Fort McMurray fire is evidence that there is a true commitment to listen and consult with labour in Alberta.
BANGLADESH SJF SOLIDARITY TOUR
On Feb. 1-12th, I had the privilege of being a PSAC rep on a solidarity tour to Dhaka, Bangladesh. The PSAC SJF Coordinator, Brother Bob Kingston (National President, Agriculture Union) and myself along with representatives from USW, CUPE and UNIFOR were hosted by the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity. In addition to meeting with staff of BCWS and their community members, we had an opportunity to visit the sites of the Rana Plaza building collapse and the Tazreen factory fire.
We met with union leaders and most profoundly, we met with victims and family members of victims from Rana Plaza and Tazreen. The objective of the tour was to determine the level of progress on health and safety for factory workers so we also met with representatives at the International Labour Organization and the Accord. This was followed by a meeting with Bangladesh government officials responsible for health and safety of workers and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Assocation. A full presentation will be made to the June NBOD meeting as part of the SJF AGM.
UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN (UNCSW60)
In March, I joined Sister Andree Cote, PSAC National Program Officer for Womens Issues and Sister Jeannie Baldwin at the UNCSW IN New York. CSW is an intergovernmental body of the UN dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Participating countries and civil society organizations (including a strong labour caucus from around the world) discuss successes and gaps in the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The priority theme for 2016 was“Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development.” They also reviewed the theme from the previous year, which was “The elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”
In addition to formal proceedings at the UN General Assembly, workshops and lectures were available in both the UN and at parallel events throughout the area around the UN building. I had the opportunity to attend sessions on sustainable development, seniors’ rights, widowhood, human trafficking, sex tourism, and effects on women in areas of conflict, to name just a few.
Two international labour caucuses were held during the first week to discuss the progress of labour’s agenda on the final draft of agreed conclusions. The event provided many opportunities to connect with Sisters (and Brothers) from labour across the globe. Once the agreed conclusions from each year are finalized, member states will develop strategies and actions to implement the recommendations. The Canadian labour delegation also had the opportunity to meet with Minister Patty Hadju, Minister for the Status of Women.
COMMITTEES IN ACTION
Regional committees and area councils in the Prairies have had a busy few months. Highlights include committee efforts around the Fort McMurray wildfires; International Women’s Day; Black History Month and ongoing committee projects.
Regional Womens Committees
Calgary, Regina, Lethbridge, Edmonton and Winnipeg each honoured International Women’s Day in their own way, from the annual potluck in Calgary to a free public swim in Lethbridge that drew over 140 people. In a very well received gesture, members of the Calgary RWC located in Red Deer filled and donated 26 purses to the Women’s Outreach Centre of Red Deer on International Women’s Day. The Regina RWC invited guest speaker Lani Elliot, a domestic violence survivor and performer in the Vagina Monologues, to speak at a recent meeting. The committee is also coordinating with a community garden and plans to donate plants and time to set this up in the North Central area of Regina, which is the most impoverished area of the city. The Lethbridge RWC organized a free public screening of Miss Representation on March 8, and the committee sponsored and co-organized a Women in Science panel on March 23.
Human Rights Committees
The Regina HRC has a new executive and is organizing for Pride Regina and an event for members with disabilities in December. The Northern Alberta (Edmonton) HRC has been organizing for the Pride rally; a Path of Light event in June for National Aboriginal Day and World Humanitarian Day in August. The Winnipeg HRC is working on setting up a Regional Aboriginal People’s Circle (RAPC) as a sub-committee. The Winnipeg HRC also celebrated Black History Month in February by showing the video “Simply The Best.” There are several activities lined up over the course of the next few months, including working on a bigger presence at the Pride march in June and hosting a table at the APTN Live event being held at the Forks in Winnipeg on June 25th to celebrate National Aboriginal Day.
The Lethbridge & District Area Council has completed its planning for the upcoming year. Approved projects include community and District Labour Council outreach projects. The Calgary Area Council had one meeting during this period, reviewing and discussing their budget and upcoming actions.
The Saskatoon Area Council participated in the Day of Mourning ceremony in Saskatoon. The keynote speaker for the Saskatoon & District Labour Council memorial was Brother Jesse Todd, a member of PSAC Agriculture Union and Chair of the Sask. Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. The Area Council was also actively engaged in the Saskatchewan provincial elections up to the day of the vote on April 4, holding a “meet and greet the provincial candidates” pancake breakfast in Saskatoon. One of the two PSAC members running as NDP candidates was from Saskatoon and members were on board to support his campaign.
The Prince Albert & District Area Council worked hard with the Regional Aboriginal People’s Circle to inform and bring out the vote for the provincial election; they held a pancake breakfast with a panel of provincial candidates where participants asked questions with a clear focus on Aboriginal issues.
The Winnipeg Area Council held their AGM in February. Members participated in the federal pre-budget lobby for MPs in the Winnipeg area; hosted a Federal Budget Watch at the regional office; promoted Treasury Board bargaining updates and mobilized members for the May Day rally in Winnipeg. They also had planned a candidates forum for the provincial election but when the Liberal candidate was removed as a candidate by the party leader, they were unable to provide a replacement. Not surprisingly, the PC party never responded to requests to participate so the election forum was cancelled.
COURSES AND CONFERENCES
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 10-12, 2016, in Winnipeg. Elected committee members and staff have been working hard to make these a success.
Our first ever Waskawetohta (Taking Action) Conference for First Nation, Inuit and Métis activists was an immense success. We welcomed 25 prairie region members to the conference on April 22 and 23 to develop an action plan for Aboriginal issues in the prairie region between 2016 and 2018, with conference participants taking on lead roles to help implement conference outcomes.
We funded a member to attend the 2016 Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Young Workers’ Conference on April 29 and 30. The annual conference gives our members an opportunity to meet with other young workers and learn about issues affecting workers, developing new skills and strategizing about how to make our unions and labour movement even stronger.
In an effort to reach more members especially those outside our urban centres, Regional Rep & Health and Safety Representative Clint Wirth organized a successful violence prevention webinar and the video recording is now available online on our website and YouTube account.
In addition to these courses and conferences were ongoing local officer training (Medicine Hat, Edmonton); courses on duty to accommodate (Alberta) and bullying in the workplace (Lethbridge); Talking Union Basics courses (Saskatoon; Regina); and a course on grievance handling (Winnipeg) and facilitators training (Edmonton).
It is a very busy time for bargaining. We have been coordinating regional bargaining update meetings and conference calls for Treasury Board members across the prairies and actively promoting ratification votes for UTE members. Staff and elected representatives have been working hard to promote and mobilize for the June 8 National Day of Action and we have been actively promoting the boycott of Public Service Week as a result of the Trudeau Liberal’s slow movement at the bargaining table.
The first round of bargaining happened on March 26-28 with ATCO Logistics. The employer is looking for huge concessions around resignation pay along with changes in language affecting sick leave and benefits. Their monetary offer consisted of rollbacks and zero in the first year.
The University of Winnipeg Academic Capacity unit had its bargaining dates cancelled and postponed to the first week of May. The team and members are still actively campaigning for a living wage on campus and have collected over 500 signatures! The local played an active role in organizing and mobilizing for a demo on April 15, led by the Manitoba Federation of Labour, calling on an increase to the minimum wage to $15/hour. We hope this will result in a better mandate for the University’s bargaining team.
Bargaining started with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and dates were set through the month of May. There are some serious problems regarding precarious work, lack of job security and scheduling issues.
Workers at the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development had their collective agreement expire on August 7, 2015. A call for input was issued on the week of April 7 and a notice to Bargain issued May 8. The bargaining team was elected; team meetings took place in July and September of 2015 and focus has since shifted to Aboriginal language preference and non-monetary issues. A bargaining update for members took place on April 6 and the next round of bargaining was scheduled for this May.
The input call has been issued for Aramark and bargaining will begin shortly.
Bargaining input was received for NPF Suffield; preparation meetings were concluded; and proposals are now being drafted. Dates were set for May 10 – 12 and May 31 – June 2.
An input call has been issued and notice to bargain issued at Winnipeg International Airport Authority – General Unit- UCTE Local 50600.
Bargaining continues at the University of Saskatchewan for academic workers. Negotiations have commenced and progress has been made to achieve a first collective agreement. Additional dates were scheduled in May.
Proposals were exchanged with the Edmonton Airport for the Edmonton Airport Firefighters. Bargaining will continue in May and an agreement was reached with the employer on arbitration as the dispute resolution mechanism.
A notice to bargain has been issued for the University of Winnipeg ELP. Bargaining dates are being scheduled to commence negotiations.
Bargaining is continuing for the Royal Canadian Mint – Winnipeg Protective Services Officers. This is a newly organized unit with 35 members who perform security services at the Winnipeg RCM facility. Proposals were exchanged with the employer and negotiations continued in April.
The Winnipeg Airport Authority CA expired June 30, 2015, for firefighters at the Winnipeg Airport Authority. Bargaining took place in April and is ongoing.
The Hudson Bay Port of Churchill (OmniTrax Canada) agreement expired March 31, 2016. Demands were exchanged on March 30 and 31, and dates were set for May 11 and 12. In December, 2015, media reports indicated that OmniTrax was being offered for sale. PSAC Prairies REVP and UCTE National President attempted to get information regarding the fate of the employees in the event of a sale. No response was received from two letters sent to the company CEO and both federal MPs and provincial MLAs were contacted.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies