NBoD Report (June 5-8, 2012)

 

Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the National Board of Directors, submitted for the June 5-8, 2012 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 5 – 8, 2012

This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting.

PRAIRIES ON PATROL

Given the hostile political climate, and the ongoing cuts to federal departments and agencies under the Harper majority, Workforce Adjustment has been a priority for Prairies staff and a major concern for members. The Prairie Region was one of the hardest hit and hundreds of members received affected letters or were advised that the section or organization they work for is shutting it’s doors (including the Cereal Research Centre and the Agroforestry Development Centre).

PSAC regional reps have been in touch with all locals to offer assistance, and Workforce Adjustment seminars – noon hour, two hour and half-day sessions – continue to be scheduled and held as locals request them. The regional offices are also fielding many calls and inquiries from members about the WFA process.

To help us engage thousands of Prairies members at once regarding the WFA process, we hosted a Telephone Town Hall for all Prairies members on April 19. Of the more than 6,500 people who answered the call live (not including answering machines, no answer, or no connection), 88 per cent (or over 5,700) participated in a portion or all of the 1 hour and 13 minute call.

A total of 149 questions were asked, 18 of which we were able to answer live on the call. We also received 70 advance questions and 60 follow-up questions from members, submitted through our online form. Sister Allison Pilon and Brother Howie West helped answer those questions and they are posted on the Prairies website, along with the audio from the event for the benefit of members who weren’t able to connect to the call.

Agriculture members developed a petition to call on the Conservative government to reverse the harmful cuts to crucial Agriculture programs in the Prairies. The petition was circulated to delegates at the PSAC National Triennial Convention.

Community members are also fighting back on behalf of our members and speaking out against cuts to important public services in their communities. In Estevan, community action reinstated Holly, Saskatchewan’s only border detector dog, and her handler after their jobs were cut only a few weeks prior. In Jasper, a group of university students are mobilizing around the cuts to Parks Canada by designing an ad to place in the Jasper newspaper. They also plan to send letters to Parks workers letting them know the work they do is appreciated, and are planning an event to bring awareness to the damage these cuts will have in Jasper. And in Manitoba, one member’s wife wrote a moving letter to the local newspaper about how the impacts of the decision to completely shut down the Agri-Environment Services Branch (formerly Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration – PFRA) are far reaching and affect not only her husband’s job, but also the entire family’s way of life. The letter is on the Prairies website.

MEMBER MOBILIZATION

Over the past few months, we have been holding Steward Assemblies in each regional office. These three-to-four-hour sessions bring together stewards from various locals and components to share their experiences, discuss campaigns, network with others, and plan for future mobilization and fight back efforts. The first round of Steward Assemblies has been well received and we are drawing on the feedback provided to refine the sessions for the future. Members appreciate the opportunity to come together to discuss issues, learn about PSAC campaigns, and strategize about the difficulties they are facing with their respective employer.

There will be several new committees in the Prairies including the Westman Regional Women’s Committee and the Northern Saskatchewan Regional Aboriginal Committee/Circle. The inaugural meeting of the Westman RWC took place on Feb 23. An executive was elected, administration set up and planning has began. Meanwhile, the Northern Saskatchewan Regional Aboriginal Committee/Circle had their first meeting on January 11. They have also held a fundraising event and will be meeting soon to elect their chairs and submit a plan for the rest of 2012.

We can also look forward to Regional Young Workers’ Committees starting up in the coming months, an initiative that started right here in the Prairies and was approved by delegates at Convention. Through the Young Workers in Action course and the Regional Youth Conference, young workers in the Prairies networked and strategized. To help build on the momentum and solidarity from these events, PRC Young Worker Representative Amanda-Rose Bourget established two Facebook pages: “PSAC Young Workers United!” and “PSAC Prairies Young Workers.” The social media groups aim to create avenue to discuss achievements and activities and celebrate the inspirational young people who are making a difference, on a national and regional level.

POLITICAL ACTION

In February, Edmonton AC members held a “Hands Off Our Pensions!” plant gate at Canada Place where they handed out stickers and asked members to sign a letter to Jim Flaherty. With the help of locals, the committee collected over 500 signed letters urging Flaherty to leave the federal pension plans alone and find ways to help ensure that all Canadians can look forward to retirement security.

The Calgary AC also took action in February by organizing the Full Cup for Action, an initiative coming from the October leadership meeting. Leaders and volunteers gave out cups of hot chocolate, and Third Choice information at different transit stations to inform the public of the consequences of cutbacks to public services. Approximately 200 people received Third Choice information and hot chocolate.

PSAC members at more than 20 workplaces throughout the Prairies took to the streets on March 1 for the National Day of Action in protest of the Conservative government’s austerity agenda and stood together outside of their workplaces to rally against the slashing of public services.Prairie Region Council representatives and members from Area Councils throughout the Prairies took the lead by speaking at the various events and participating in media interviews.

All eyes were on the federal budget as PSAC members gathered at budget watch events across the Prairie Region to assess the impact it will have on working families in our communities and the services that Canadians rely on. Following the budget watch events, PSAC members and other CLC affiliates are strategizing on how they can work together to take action and fight back against the destruction of quality public services in Canada.

PSAC members in Alberta mobilized around the April 23 provincial election to ensure the Wildrose Party wasn’t elected. Letters and pamphlets were mailed out from the regional offices encouraging members to vote. A number of Lethbridge AC members worked on NDP candidate Shannon Phillips’ campaign, assisting with door knocking, sign posting and work in the campaign office. The Edmonton AC met with the AFL to strategize for the election and included their election report card and campaign materials in the mail out. The AC also hosted a phone bank to call members in three target ridings: Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, Edmonton-Calder, and Edmonton-Manning. In two of the three ridings, the NDP candidates were successful in unseating the Progressive Conservative incumbents. Members were happy that PSAC was involved with the provincial election.

While Prairies delegates attended the “Solidarity Against Austerity” rally in Ottawa during the 16th PSAC National Triennial Convention, other members attended events in their RO areas organized by the Federations of Labour to recognize May Day on May 1. In Lethbridge, the AC organized a demonstration outside one Conservative MP’s office in support of public services.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH

The Winnipeg RWC collected underwear, socks, toiletries, and food to donate to S.N.O.W Night (Safe Night Off Winnipeg Streets). The event, held annually for women and transgender sex trade workers, provides a safe night free from violence, harm, hunger, and exploitation.

The Calgary Human Rights Committee sponsored the Fairy Tales International Queer Film Festival for the second year and hosted a movie night, sponsored by PSAC and staffed by member volunteers. They are also hosting a venue at this year’s Global Fest in August to celebrate First Nations communities. Planning and organizing for this event is well underway.

Brother Howard Willems attended the Day of Mourning ceremony in Saskatoon and spoke about the dangers of asbestos. Brother Howard, a long-time PSAC member and activist, was diagnosed with mesothelioma (an asbestos related cancer of the lungs) and is leading the fight for safe workplaces and the banning of asbestos exportation in Canada. Many of our members work in federal buildings that may contain asbestos and don’t even know it. This will be an important topic at our next Regional Health & Safety Conference. 

On March 12, the Saskatoon RWC sponsored World Food Day, in collaboration with the Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition. Various women’s groups set up tables and PSAC members were on site to demonstrate the importance of quality public services, as well as promote the work of the committee.

On March 20, the Winnipeg HRC attended a community event called Voices of Survival. Guest speakers included Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), and Robbie Waisman, a holocaust survivor and outreach speaker for the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, who gave powerful presentations about the history of the residential school system in Canada and the resiliency of the human spirit, respectively.

The Regina RWC has once again affiliated with the Coalition for Early Childhood Learning, affirming their commitment to childcare issues and the health and well being of children in our communities and across Canada. They have also received a project for the United Way of Regina Day of Caring and will be painting and decorating a room for two women with intellectual disabilities at a group home.

The Edmonton HRC had a movie night on May 17 to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. They screened The Brandon Teena Story, an award-winning documentary based on the tragic true story of Teena Brandon. The Committee is also planning several other projects, including participating in a dinner for under-privileged families in an inner-city neighborhood.

The Regina RWC remembered our past achievements by inviting a Sister that was one of many on the picket line in the 1980 CR strike who fought for and were successful in achieving family and maternity leave. The theme for the meeting was “Honour Our Past to Change Our Future.”

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Prairies Sisters are fighting back against the Conservative government’s agenda to cut jobs and eliminate deficit, and moving forward to ensure our rights for the future. Their commitment showed with all RWCs participating in various International Women’s Day events held throughout the region.

The Winnipeg RWC hosted a film viewing of the CBC documentary The F-Word: Who wants to be a Feminist? at the regional office on March 8. The members had a discussion about the history and future of feminism, as well as the PSAC Women’s Program and how job cuts affect women in the public service. 

In Edmonton, RWC members had a plant gate at Canada Place where they distributed roses and “Job Cuts Hurt Women” booklets. Additionally, they marched in the International Women’s Day parade on March 10 with a banner for women and their struggles.

The Prairie Region also hosted the pilot “Women at Work” course during the week of IWD. Participants learned about women in the labour and social justice movements, and strategized about how to address the challenges faced by working women in Canada and around the world.

We had significant interest in this course and received over 70 applications, but only had space for 18 participants. As a result of the interest in this course, we will be developing a new education activity to be offered in each regional office area for those Sisters who were not able to participate in this course.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Sister Rachel Albiez, the young worker from Lethbridge who participated in the Social Justice Fund’s Young Workers Delegation to Central America,presented to the Lethbridge Area Council and the participants of the Women at Work course in Edmonton about her experiences. She also displayed photos and a video from the trip.

Brother Michael Shields, Agriculture 30048 in Lethbridge, Alberta, also had the opportunity to participate in a PSAC Social Justice trip with four other members from the North and NCR. These young workers learned about the struggles for change in Guatemala. They met with various social justice organizations doing important work and received several presentations on the past and current political situation in Guatemala. They also spent some time helping on the building site of a sustainable house that utilizes all materials for the construction from the land, soil, water, pine needles, etc. 

LABOUR AFFILIATES

PSAC members from the Lethbridge Area Council helped organize and sponsored Picnic in the Park, a march from city hall to Galt Gardens, held on May 5. Lethbridge Mayor Rajko Dodic spoke at the event, along with AFL President Gil McGowan who spoke on behalf of unions and public services.

Matt Tijani, Winnipeg Area Council Representative on the PRC, spoke at the Winnipeg Labour Council meeting on April 17 asking for Labour to assist PSAC in preserving public services in the face of the recent cuts to PSAC positions and important public services.

FUTURE

We are moving forward with plans for our next Regional Health & Safety Conference. The Conference is designed to provide assistance and resources to PSAC members who are Workplace Safety and Health Committee members, Workplace Safety & Health Representatives or Policy Committee members. The conference will be held in Edmonton in the fall of 2012.

We are also launching bus ads in Saskatchewan, in conjunction with CEIU, to speak out against the cuts to Service Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. These ads will simulate the successful transit ad campaign we ran in Winnipeg in January for the same purpose.

Respectfully submitted,

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