REPORT OF THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT, PRAIRIES
TO THE NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS
October 16 - 19, 2018
This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting in June.
Phoenix Action in the Prairies
A conference call was held in early July with Prairie Region Council members and executive members of all 8 Prairies Area Councils. Discussion centered around how to take action by getting locals to participate in events to raise awareness with our members, with the public and a strategy to ensure we are lobbying all MP’s particularly Liberal MP’s.
Members on the call identified that they needed more comprehensive resources to do the lobbying portion. PSAC Prairies has developed a lobby kit that contains background information on Phoenix including a timeline, a script for TB members, a script for non-TB members, contact info for all Prairies MP’s and lobbying do’s and don’ts. The kit is not published on the website for obvious reasons but has been sent to every local, national officer and regional council member in the Prairies.
While in the Edmonton area for Labour Day, worksite visits and Federation of Labour meetings, I was advised that PM Trudeau would be in Edmonton for a party fundraiser. With less than 24 hours notice, and with the support of the Edmonton Regional Office and Component Presidents, we had 25+ members at the Delta Hotel with our Prairies “Burnt By Phoenix - Still Burning” t-shirts and banners to make some noise. All we got from the PM was a wave and comment of “Thanks for coming” but thankfully the media took our protest more seriously and we had wide coverage on all networks.
Stay tuned for a report from Winnipeg where members are mobilizing to “greet” the PM at a party fundraiser on Sept. 11th.
Prairies Webinar With National President Chris Aylward PSAC - Prairies recently held a Webinar with newly elected National President Chris Aylward. Brother Aylward spoke about Phoenix, bargaining and updates from across the PSAC's broad membership. He then took questions from members on topics ranging from Phoenix, bargaining, privatization and separate employers and Directly Chartered Locals and even a question on how can members respond when other members say the union isn’t relevant anymore. Thank you to Brother Aylward for making himself available to speak to members from across the Prairies.
Support Our Port
Recently a letter was sent to Prime Minister Trudeau by PSAC and UCTE in regards to the ongoing crisis in Churchill, Manitoba. Signatories to the letter are: Chris Aylward, National President; Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies; and Dave Clark, National President, UCTE. This letter called on the Prime Minister to use federal government resources to fix the rail line immediately, so that goods and services can move now, so that the people of Churchill have access to the rest of our country, so that this coming winter isn’t quite as difficult as last year.
Recent news appears to indicate that a sale has been completed and repairs will begin immediately. We will remain vigilant on behalf of our members and the people of this community who have suffered enough from the neglect of the federal and provincial governments, and the private employer who has ignored their responsibilities.
On the heart-breaking final week for employees of the Vegreville Case Processing Centre (CPC), we have won an important but bittersweet victory for our members.
On June 28, 2017 PSAC filed a Policy Grievance on behalf of members working at the Vegreville CPC. The Policy Grievance was filed because the Department of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) told employees that if they did not want to relocate to Edmonton as a result of the impending closure of the Vegreville CPC, there would be no compensation package and that employees must move with their position or be laid off, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s clear public commitment to the contrary. On August 29, 2018, The Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board ruled in favour of the PSAC and its members.
PSAC believes that the information given out by the department was wrong and that even those who said “yes” to the relocation prior to October 2017 should get a chance to change their mind. The choices made by the members at Vegreville were compromised by the information given out by the department.
PSAC and CEIU stand strong in our belief that the Vegreville CPC closure is not the right decision for our members, the community of Vegreville, or the Canadians these employees serve every day. This victory is bittersweet, but we hope that it will allow our members to plan for their future in a way that ensures their employment rights are respected.
This victory would not have been possible without the testimony of our members, and the support of everyone who fought to Respect Vegreville.
The Board has given PSAC and the employer 60 days to try and negotiate the remedy on their own. If an agreement is not reached in that time period, the Board will be able to rule on the issue of remedy.
This decision came down right after the Town of Vegreville hosted an appreciation BBQ at Rotary Park for the workers of the CPC. I was sad but proud to be able to attend, along with allies in the Respect Vegreville campaign including: Eddy Borque (CEIU National President), Shannon Stubbs (MP), Michelle Henderson (CEIU National Vice-President), Jessica Littlewood (MLA) and Tim McPhee (Mayor of Vegreville).
PSAC members at the Casino Regina, and other union members around the province, have received mixed messages and misinformation from this Saskatchewan Party government. It's time to get back to the table and negotiate fair contracts for all workers in the province. I was able to join members from Local 40005 for an informational picket outside Casino on June 7th. We handed out leaflets and cookies to spread the message that our members deserve a “fair deal” from this government.
In a letter dated June 13, 2018, SaskGaming Minister Christine Tell stated that the Government of Saskatchewan was still committed to a “3.5 per cent reduction in compensation and benefits. This directive is for both unionized and non-unionized employees and this mandate has not changed.”
However, Minister Harpauer has since seemed to suggest publicly that this is no longer the case. If this unfair and arbitrary mandate has indeed been abandoned, this would go a long way to ensuring a smooth ratification of our contract negotiations in the interests of our members, SaskGaming, the Government of Saskatchewan and the citizens of Saskatchewan who benefit from their efforts through many community initiatives.
I have written Minister Tell once again in order to clarify matters, but deep confusion remains across Saskatchewan when it comes to labour negotiations.
Deer Lodge Centre
PSAC and UVAE members and their supporters gathered Wednesday, July 4 at Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg to protest the Pallister government’s Bill 29 and stand up for quality care for our veterans. Deer Lodge Centre is the largest rehabilitation and long term care facility in Manitoba, focused on providing care to Canada’s veterans.
Bill 29 (The Health Sector Bargaining Union Review Act) will force health care workers in Manitoba into “representation votes” to determine what union will represent them in the future, instead of being represented by the union they have already freely chosen. While we do not agree that bargaining unit restructure is necessary to ensure quality patient care, we have participated with other health care unions in Manitoba to come to the table prepared to work with government.
From day one, PSAC and other health sector unions have told the Pallister government that there are better solutions that can work for everyone. There is no need for this process to be conducted in Manitoba. The government has chosen to pit unions against each other. That’s not right.
The 500 PSAC/UVAE members at Deer Lodge Centre provide high quality care to our veterans, and do so with respect. They should be focused on this important and valuable work, not worrying about complicated and unnecessary representation votes.
PSAC believes that priority of this government should be to ensure that our veterans receive the best possible care from employees who are focused on their needs and not on an unnecessary bargaining union restructure. Premier Pallister should Repeal Bill 29, and show respect for health care workers in Manitoba.
Committees In Action
After much rumbling thunder early in the morning, June 10 turned out to be a fabulous day for the UTE Tri-Local Picnic at Tinkertown in Winnipeg! Hundreds of burgers and hotdogs were served to UTE members and their families at this annual event. It was a lot of fun to attend this event.
With support from PSAC, the Lethbridge Area Council successfully entered the “Burnt by Phoenix” dragon boat team into the ATB Financial Lethbridge Rotary Dragon Boat Festival. This was prominent weekend long (June 22-26) festival that promoted an abundance of community involvement for both racers and non-racers. It was big draw for Lethbridge and surrounding areas as there were several vendors, entertainment and activities for kids. The LAC had a total of 26 team paddlers from several components including: Agriculture, Government Services Union, Union of Taxation Employees, and Customs and Immigration Union. This event also captured a great deal of media attention throughout the weekend. This was a great way to spread the word about Phoenix and make connections with members. As a Rotary event, all proceeds from the festival support Rotary funded community and international projects.
National Public Service Week (NPSW) took place from June 10 to 16, 2018. This year PSAC chose not to boycott the Employer’s events, but instead use those events to highlight the ongoing pay problems by the Phoenix Pay System. By drawing attention to Phoenix at these Employer events we made a strong statement. On Tuesday, June 12 UTE Local 40023 in Saskatoon held a plant gate. The executive and stewards handed out CAS cards and a Phoenix sticker with a hand out. The hand out was drawing attention to Phoenix and the negative consequences our members face. Members wore the "CAs can do it" aprons. Members also held a draw for a Timmies card.
On a rainy Thursday, June 14 the Calgary Area Council held an ice cream event for members at the Calgary Airport for UTE and UCTE members. Organizers also provided Burnt by Phoenix stickers, Phoenix First Aid, and fact sheets to 100's of members who signed the Phoenix petition to the PM. Local 40064 members in Regina gathered at Scarth Street & Victoria Avenue. They placed Phoenix stickers on the cups and gave out chips and candy cups.
To recognize our value for the services we provide to Canadians, the government must do more to rectify Phoenix and properly address the negative consequences our members face. Until Phoenix is fixed or replaced by a new functioning system and all our members pay issues have been corrected, we will continue to hold this government responsible.
PSAC members were well represented at Labour Day events throughout the Prairies. Members handed out balloons, tattoos, rulers and “Childcare for All” colouring kits, as well as wearing “Burnt By Phoenix” t-shirts which were a real hit.
A beautiful, sunny day in Winnipeg was the scene for the annual march and BBQ. Speeches were delivered at Memorial Park, including from Winnipeg Labour Council President Basia Sokal, who spoke about the importance of electing labour-endorsed candidates in the upcoming civic elections. PSAC members then joined the march down Portage Ave. to Vimy Park for the BBQ.
In Lethbridge the PSAC LRWC and Lethbridge Area Council joined the Lethbridge and District Labour Council for their 6th Annual Labour Family Picnic at Kinsmen Park. The women’s committee provided two bouncy castles for the children to enjoy. Volunteers Stephanie Erb and Ray Wilson, Agriculture Local 30048 members, supervised the castles to ensure no one was hurt. With cotton candy added to the menu this year, there was a line up at the PSAC table for most of the event! Volunteers used this opportunity to talk to people about Phoenix while wearing Burnt By Phoenix T-shirts. Volunteer Karen Mah become that expert cotton candy spinner and had the perfect serving down after spinning for nearly 4 hours. The BBQ overall served 800 members of the community. There was free face-painting and live music. The Lethbridge Area Council also helped to support an event in Medicine Hat. Sister Danielle Possiant recently helped her local (30907), affiliate with the Medicine Hat Labour Council. At their event she organized a bouncy castle as well.
The bright colors of the PSAC Prairies tent was prominent in Saskatoon where our members provided helium balloons and other swag to the crowd in Victoria Park. Mayor Charlie Clark joined festivities in Saskatoon, while a record crowd in Brandon saw the BBQ run out of hot dogs! In Calgary a rainy day could not extinguish the passion of our members to put the flaming Phoenix mess out for good. Good thing our members who volunteer each year had the tent!
I was pleased to join Edmonton Area Council activists at the Labour Day barbecue for the unemployed and under-employed that for the past 28 years has been hosted by the Edmonton Labour Council. In Regina, the Area Council attended the annual Labour Day Picnic.
Pride activities were a big focus for many of our members during the summer months.
Lethbridge Pride is an entire month event with the culmination of the Pride Parade on June 23. The event landed on the same weekend as the Dragonboat festival – a busy time so we were down volunteers. Sister Krysty Munns walked in the parade with the Alberta Federation of Labour float. There were approximately 3,000 people lining the streets leading up to the big party in Galt Gardens.
700 people made their way out to the Brandon Pride March held on June 16, with PSAC well represented.
In Edmonton on June 9th, the two-spirit community was honoured as the Parade’s Grand Marshall. Premier Notley was in attendance as well as a significant presence from the labour movement including PSAC members and staff. In Calgary, students involved with Gay-Straight Alliances led festivities on September 2nd. This is an important moment as several attempts were made by conservative opposition to block and stifle the creation of these valuable student groups which create a safe space for youth.
In Winnipeg, thousands gathered at the Manitoba Legislature on June 3rd to participate in the annual Pride Parade, which went from the Legislature to the Forks for the Pride Festival. The theme of Pride 2018 was “My First Pride”. A strong PSAC contingent was in attendance. PSAC was proud to support the Two Spirit Pow Wow at the Forks National Historic Site.
Saskatoon’s Pride parade took place on Father’s Day, June 23rd and drew loud and happy crowds out in support. In Regina, our Human Rights Committee attended the Queen City Pride Parade.
With the aim of building density and increasing the bargaining power of our existing PSAC local at the University of Winnipeg, a new campaign has been approved in support of Postdoctoral Fellows joining our Research Associate bargaining unit. Card signing recently secured unanimous support for unionization. Local counsel is currently pursuing a Memorandum of Agreement in preparation for joint applications to seek certification and amend the existing Research Associate certificate to include Postdoctoral Fellows.
Following our recent success with veterinary interns and residents that will join our Graduate Student Employees bargaining unit at the University of Saskatchewan, a new campaign has been approved in support of Research Associates joining the existing PSAC local. We aim for a similar process that promotes bargaining strength, efficiency and cost savings. Card signing is ongoing.
Negotiations continue for UCTE members at the Port of Churchill. As the sale of the Port and the Churchill Marine Tank Farm has just been announced, we will be contacting the new employer to confirm successor rights and determine a plan to continue negotiations with the new employer.
Negotiations are ongoing at the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development in Winnipeg. Bargaining is set to resume in late September.
The Royal Canadian Mint - Winnipeg Protective Services Officers bargaining team is in place. The Plant Group at the Mint has exchanged proposals with the employer with bargaining to take place October.
The collective agreement at Regina Airport expired on June 30. Our bargaining team is working on proposals.
A collective agreement has been reached at the Calgary Airport.
A collective agreement has also been reach for the the Security Resource Group at the Winnipeg Airport.
Post Doctorate workers at the University of Saskatchewan have conciliation dates set for late September.
First contract negotiations for the Research Associates/Assistants Unit is underway at the University of Winnipeg, and the Academic Capacity Unit is in negotiations for its second contract.
Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President