Regional Executive Vice-President
Prairie Region Council July 2017
This report covers the period since the Prairie Region Triennial Convention.
First, I want to congratulate each of you again on being elected or re-elected to serve as a representative of the PSAC Prairie Region Council. More than half of the 23 Prairie Region Council representatives are new to the council. You each bring new perspectives and ideas and I look forward to working with this new PRC to plan our way forward and ensure continued success and solidarity in the Prairies.
As you know, the 7th Prairie Region Triennial Convention was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba from April 21–23, 2017 with a registered total of 336 in attendance, including 296 delegates, 7 guests, 4 NBoD, and 29 Observers.
Delegates passed 18 different resolutions throughout the weekend. Those regarding the Prairie Region Bylaws will be dealt with regionally, while all others have already been forwarded to the PSAC National Triennial Convention, scheduled to be held April 29 to May 4, 2018 in Toronto.
I’d like to thank and congratulate the Convention Host Committee for facilitating a fabulous silent auction with great prizes and raising $3,000 for the Merchants Corner to help create affordable student housing in Winnipeg’s inner city.
I also want to acknowledge the staff for their work leading up to Convention and throughout the weekend to ensure everything ran as smoothly and efficiently as it did. Convention wouldn't happen if it weren't for the staff involved and their coordinated efforts, so a big thank you goes out to all of the staff that contributed to a successful Convention.
Photos of all Convention activities have been posted on the PSAC Prairie Region Facebook page and on the PSAC Prairies website.
All regional conventions have now been held and a few new AEC officers have been elected:
- Atlantic: June 23–25, Colleen Hodder elected REVP
- BC: June 16–18, Jamey Mills elected REVP (Former BC REVP Bob Jackson did not reoffer and plans to retire)
- NCR: May 5–7, Greg McGillis elected REVP (Former NCR Regional REVP Larry Rousseau has been elected as one of the CLC’s executive vice-president)
- North: June 17–18, Jack Bourassa re-elected REVP
- Ontario: May 26–28, Sharon DeSousa re-elected REVP
- Quebec: April 21–23, Magali Picard re-elected REVP
Looking ahead, we need to think about location and date for the 2020 Prairie Region Triennial Convention. It will come as no surprise to those that were at Convention that we have outgrown the facilities at the Fairmont Winnipeg. With the addition of camera and lighting equipment this year, and the move to a two-tiered stage setup to align with national convention practices, the hotel convention space is inadequate for our growing needs. In a post-Convention survey, we heard complaints that the convention floor and display area was too cramped and crowded. We will now have to look into proper convention centre facilities within the region with the most number of unionized hotels in the immediate area.
Between March 6 and April 6, over 130 ratification vote meetings were held in more than 40 different locations across the Prairie Region. This was a huge undertaking for PSAC staff and a massive commitment for bargaining team members. I want to thank all of the staff and bargaining team members who made it possible and played a role in the positive outcome of the ratification vote.
After much delay on the part of the employer, Treasury Board and PSAC finally signed collective agreements for the PA, EB, TC and SV bargaining units on June 14. This is the result of significant pressure from our union. These agreements, which cover over 85,000 workers in the federal public service, were ratified by the membership in April. Since then, PSAC had been pushing the employer to sign the agreements.
National Public Service Week was held from June 11–17 to mark the importance of federal public service employees and recognize their service to Canadian society. During the week, members throughout the Prairie Region organized alternative NPSW events to call the employer on their hypocrisy and tell the federal government to put its money where its mouth is and demonstrate real respect, rather than empty gestures. Members proudly sported “Burnt by Phoenix” stickers and signed postcards to send to Treasury Board President Scott Brison.
The latest update on Phoenix shows a large remaining backlog of cases. There are still 345,000 pay transactions in the system, which is about 265,000 more than they can process in any given month. Deputy Minister Marie Lemay said that there has been an increase in pay transactions because of seasonal hiring and the implementation of new collective agreements in the public service.
PSAC is committed to doing everything we can to help get our members paid correctly and on time. We will continue to push the government to take the necessary action to fix Phoenix.
Several rallies have been held in Saskatchewan to show support for public services and stand up against cuts, austerity and this government’s misplaced priorities, including one on March 8 and another on May 31.
I was in attendance at the Saskatchewan Legislature on April 26 when the government passed Bill 40, which allows for the sale of up to 49% of Saskatchewan’s Crown Corporations. Union members took direct action by silently standing and turning our backs to Sask Party MLA’s as they voted yes to Bill 40. Despite the obvious setback, we will continue to work with the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and other unions to fight back against the government and their misguided priorities to privatize our Crowns.
The SFL has launched phase two of their Own It campaign to say no to the Sask Party government’s budget cuts to public services and their privatization agenda for Saskatchewan Crowns. We’ve supported the campaign since day one, and a PSAC member working for Casino Regina was interviewed as part of the campaign sharing how privatization would affect her and her family. We’ve posted the video to the PSAC Prairies YouTube channel. You can also find out more about the Own It campaign at ownyoursaskatchewan.ca.
PSAC is actively working with other unions in Manitoba. Our priority is to ensure that members continue to be represented and that we stand in solidarity with other unions. On May 8, I presented PSAC's submission to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs regarding Bill 29: The Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act. We have seen in other jurisdictions where representation votes are time consuming, costly and divisive. There is no need for this process to be conducted in Manitoba. 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 and have presented an alternative solution to meet their concerns.
That same day, we also made a submission to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development regarding Bill 28: The Public Services Sustainability Act. Bill 28 will impact over 1,000 PSAC members and we called on the provincial government to withdraw the legislation and respect union members' constitutionally protected right to collective bargaining.
On March 28, I attended a Labour Liaison meeting coordinated by the Alberta Federation of Labour with Premier Rachel Notley and the cabinet. The Alberta government is currently undertaking a review of the provincial Employment Standards Act. The Lethbridge Area Council President attended a community consultation to provide feedback for updating provincial labour standards. We are actively participating with the AFL to prepare for the next provincial election in 2019.
Meanwhile, there has been positive update with regards to federal anti-labour legislation. Two Conservative anti-union laws, Bills C-377 and C-525, are now history with the adoption of Bill C-4. Both of these Conservative bills were an attack on working people. The bill reverses changes that were made to the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act.
A table was set up at the Alberta Federation of Labour Convention in Edmonton on April 27–29 and information was available at the recent CLC Convention in Toronto.
On April 19, members received official notification of the relocation, although management has denied this is a workforce adjustment scenario. Visit respectvegreville.ca to read the fact sheet, the correspondence with the Minister, and to take part in the online action.
On May 25, we held a rally outside Canada Place in Edmonton—the planned future home of the Vegreville CPC— to protest the attack on rural Alberta communities like Vegreville. Speakers included Linda Duncan, NDP MP for Edmonton Strathcona; Crystal Warner, CEIU National Executive Vice-President; Shannon Stubbs, Conservative MP for Lakeland; Jessica Littlewood, NDP MLA for Fort Saskatchewan–Vegreville; and Susan Cake from the Alberta Federation of Labour.
With recent revelations that moving the Vegreville Case Processing Centre to Edmonton will cost taxpayers millions extra, we’re reaffirming the call to reverse the closure and to invest in rural Canadian communities. Global News Chief Political Correspondent David Akin first broke the news citing an internal costing analysis from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. The documents show Ottawa will spend $46.6 million on renovations and leasing in Edmonton, compared to $35.8 million to upgrade the existing facility in Vegreville.
I’d like to thank all of the PSAC members and affiliated union members who have shown their support for this campaign to date. And a special thank you to members in Ontario and Atlantic for showing support for Vegreville at their respective regional conventions. There is still work to be done. I ask that you continue to stay engaged and active with this campaign as we continue the fight.
Support Our Port
Despite continued pressure, no information has been shared by the multinational corporation, OmniTrax, regarding the announced sale of the Port of Churchill. Media reports indicate a sale may be imminent but no confirmation has been provided and there has been no response from the provincial or federal government on our demand to nationalize the Port. We are still currently in negotiations and seeking dates to return to the table.
A big congratulations to our bargaining team at the University of Winnipeg for achieving their first ever collective agreement for student workers in the academic capacity on campus, including markers, teaching assistants, lab demonstrators, and tutors. Meanwhile, the University of Winnipeg Academic Research Assistants unit continue negotiations for a first collective agreement. The Royal Canadian Mint’s Winnipeg Protective Services Officers also ratified their first collective agreement on March 1.
Negotiations continue with the Port of Churchill. Bargaining is also ongoing at the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development, where the collective agreement expired August 2015. Notice to bargain has been issued for the SRG Security Resource Group and Edmonton Airport GBU, where both collective agreements expired on December 31, 2016.
The Casino Regina collective agreement also expired December 31, 2016. Notice to bargain has been issued and management has advised the local and negotiator of the government’s wage hold for 2017-2018. The Casino is included in the government’s announcements, but we are committed to negotiating a collective agreement in good faith. While PSAC as the bargaining unit was advised, we are waiting to see what the employer tables when negotiations begin.
Negotiations continue for a first collective agreement for the University of Saskatchewan Academic Capacity unit. We’re still uncertain how the provincial government’s mandate will affect negotiations. The University of Saskatchewan Post Docs unit are also preparing their bargaining package and negotiations are ongoing at Brandon University.
The notice to bargain has been issued for the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp. Negotiations continue at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, with the main priority being precarious work for front line workers. The bargaining package is being finalized for Deer Lodge Centre, but we’re still unsure at this time how the provincial government’s wage freeze will impact negotiations. We’ve applied for conciliation with the Winnipeg Airport Authority where the issues of privatization and contracting out have been predominant in this round of negotiations.
Congratulations to the PSAC members working for Treasury Board on ratifying new collective agreements that contain no concessions for four bargaining units. Now we must show our support for the border services group (FB Group) as they continue to fight for respect of their critical public safety duties.
Organizing efforts are also ongoing throughout the Prairies to coincide with the national PSAC/USGE campaign to represent Civilian Members of the RCMP.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies