REPORT OF THE
REGIONAL EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT, PRAIRIES
TO THE NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS
February 13-16, 2018
This report covers the period from the last NBOD meeting in October.
YOUNG WORKER COMMITTEES
In some excellent news to start 2018, Young Worker Committees have officially been formed in Edmonton and in Winnipeg, and inaugural meetings are soon to take place.
In Edmonton, the first meeting took place Tuesday, January 16th; In Winnipeg, the first meeting was held Thursday, January 18th.
Workers from outside Winnipeg and Edmonton were encouraged to get involved by calling into one of the two meetings.
Big thanks to the new PRC Young Worker’s Rep Mackenzie Campbell for all of her work in bring this together. We are working towards a Young Workers’ Summit on the Prairies in the Spring, which is very exciting.
Political Action and Campaigns
CBSA RALLY IN REGINA
On December 19th, 2017 there was a successful rally for CIU members in Regina. As CIU members await the PIC report, the rally served as a show of support for the bargaining team who has been at the table fighting for a fair collective agreement that includes recognition of CBSA Officers as law enforcement. Thank you to everyone who came out to show their solidarity and fight for a fair deal, including: CIU Saskatchewan Local 40031, PSAC Regina Area Council, PSAC Local 40005, USGE, UNE and CEIU.
Special thanks to Santa Claus (who reminds us an awful lot of CIU Sask. Branch 2nd VP and PSAC Prairie Region Young Worker’s Alternate Rep Glenn Hollyoake), Santa’s Chief Elf and the Gingerbread Man for stopping by to unveil Santa’s Naughty and Nice List. No surprise to see PM Trudeau, MP Ralph Goodale, MP Scott Brisson and MP Bill Morneau on the naughty list. Topping out the nice list… President Robyn Benson, CIU President JP Fortin, the FB Bargaining Team and I made the Nice list!
SUPPORT OUR PORT
In an unending legal battle, Omnitrax has declared its intention to sue the federal government under NAFTA rather than live up to its duty to repair the rail line.
Waiting for lawsuits and counter suits to solve this issue only means more delays, more devastation and more hardship for the people of Churchill. The time is now to bring the Port and the railway into public hands.
PSAC has consistently called on the federal government to bring the Port of Churchill and the rail line back as a national asset so that it can return to full operation in the short term, and remain so for generations to come. Similar to an airport authority, port authority status would allow community and government representatives to sit on the board and be accountable to various stakeholders, including municipalities and Indigenous communities, instead of being focused solely on corporate shareholders. The Minister of Transport has the authority under the Canada Marine Act to amend the list of regulated port authorities by Order in Council or regulation.
It is also urgent that the Province of Manitoba institute a fuel subsidy to offset the exorbitant gasoline prices that northern communities are facing, and sit down with all the partners in Churchill to help develop an economic plan that includes fixing the rail line and re-opening the valuable Port of Churchill for business again.
Unfortunately, despite the significant media and community attention this issue has received, the provincial government failed to even mention the community of Churchill in their recent Speech From the Throne.
In the midst of the uncertainty, we continue to try achieve a renewed collective agreement to protect the UCTE members at the port should a sale go through and will continue to pressure both the provincial and the federal government to take solid action to restore rail service and get the port operational for the 2018 shipping season.
In January 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a Town Hall at the University of Saskatchewan. In response to a question about the Vegreville Case Processing Centre closure, he said: "Compensation and packages will be made available to those employees who do not wish to relocate."
However, the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has since informed public service workers who do not wish to relocate that there will be no compensation and no packages. In fact, those who do not accept the department's final offer to relocate will be laid off in August 2018.
That's not right. And that's not what the Prime Minister said would happen.
We are fighting this broken promise through the policy grievance process, while also continuing the fight to keep the Vegreville CPC open. But at the very least it's not too late for the department to change course and keep the promise made by Prime Minister Trudeau.
On Nov. 27th, Sister Robyn Benson, National President and I toured the Vegreville Immigration Case Processing Centre and met with the Director to express our opposition to the closure and relocation Edmonton. Thank you to CEIU Local 30851 for the invitation to your Holiday dinner and membership meeting.
On Dec. 6th, Sister Robyn Benson, Sister Michelle Henderson, CEIU RVP Alberta and myself were to meet with Minister Husssen regarding the closure. Just hours prior to the meeting, the Minister cancelled bur we were able to meet with the Minister’s Chief of Staff and department officials. The rationale for the closure is still a moving target with different reasons and we are awaiting further information promised by the department officials. We are also awaiting confirmation of a meeting with Sister Benson and the Minister.
In Manitoba, I spoke at legislative hearings on Bill 23, the Fisheries Amendment Act. Our members at the Winnipeg processing facility are the engineers that maintain the plant’s equipment.
We are concerned with the government’s decision to introduce Bill 23, especially the decision to withdraw from its participation agreement under the Freshwater Fish Marketing Act. While we acknowledge that fishers will still have the option of selling their fish via the FFMC, PSAC believes that a fundamental link in the fishing economy will be severely damaged – hurting fishers, their communities, and undermining the workers at the processing centre in Winnipeg.
PSAC believes that FFMC should remain a monopoly single-desk for the economic security and stability of all Manitoba fishers.
FFMC was created in 1969 and is located right here in Winnipeg. It was designed to give our small fishing communities strength and stability in terms of price and quality.
Time and again, we have seen the ideological approach to “market freedom” has the same effects: small operators are cut out and wages are depressed.
In many ways, this feels like a re-play of the disastrous decision to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. While we submitted a written brief to the Legislative Committee, I took the opportunity to explain the similarities between the current situation in Churchill and the Federal Conservatives decision to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. I also supported northern indigenous fishers who presented to committee by calling on the provincial government to further develop a strategy and draft regulations before proclaiming Bill 23.
On behalf of PSAC members in the Alberta, I wrote to Premier Notley to congratulate her and her government on passing legislation to support Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools. The letter which was jointly signed with Brother Chris Little-Gagné, PRC LGBT Representative was well received by both the Premier’s office and the Minister of Education’s office.
The positive impact of Gay-Straight Alliances and other similar student organizations is clear. Bill 24 ensures that students can have access to peer support when they need it the most, and that every single school in Alberta that receives public dollars must have a policy that clearly allows students to form a gay-straight alliance. Because these policies will be made public by school authorities, there will transparency and accountability to the students and communities they serve. It is vital that students know that their right to access the support they need is not subject to the whims of any one institution or individual.
COMMITTEES IN ACTION
The Lethbridge Area Council held an Annual General Meeting on October 17th. A new executive was elected. Sister Krysty Munns was re-elected President, Brother David Person was re-elected Secretary/Treasurer and Sister Kristy Slattery was elected Vice-President.
On November 28th, Sister Munns was called upon to give a media interview on Bill 30, Alberta’s new workplace safety legislation, which includes the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work, the right to know about unsafe work and the right to participate in Occupational Health and Safety Committees.
Members of the committee attended the Canadian Labour International Film Festival that was held at the Lethbridge Public Library on November 29th, 2017.
Sister Munns lobbied MP Rachel Harder on Friday December 8th to discuss the ongoing Phoenix issues. Ms. Harder committed to requesting approval to speak in the on house on behalf of her constituents about Phoenix.
The Calgary Area Council hosted two CLIFF Film nights on November 15th and 17th. Several members of the committee also attended the Sister’s in Spirit Vigil on October 4th and the committee donated some funds to help cover the cost of replacement candles. Two members of the committee attended the annual Person’s Day Breakfast on October 18th and our committee contributed some funds to cover the cost of the speakers.
The committee also contributed to the University of Lethbridge Women’s Resource Centre Menstruation Drive whereby we purchased feminine hygiene products to be given away at the Resource Centre to women who may otherwise not be able to afford them.
The Lethbridge RWC also hosted the Annual Giving Project. In its 8th year, this project sees members welcome crafters, knitters, and crocheters to a community event to gather toques, mittens, scarves and other warm items to be distributed to individuals within the community who are in need of them at this time of year.
November 25th to 27th, 2017 the Calgary Regional Women’s Committee hosted the “A Women’s Place is in Her Union” Retreat. This 3-day event included an evening of fellowship and conversation on November 25th, the course “A Women’s Place is in Her Union” and a workshop on Domestic Violence in the Workplace and Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Children, followed by a lunch. I was able to attend, as well as Sister Benson and guest speakers Constable Maria Wren of the Calgary Police Service’s Domestic Conflict Response Team and Josie Nepinak of Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society.
The course kicked off the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.
For the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, Regional Women’s Committees from throughout the Prairies attended local events. In Saskatoon, the Regional Women’s Committee met on December 6th and had a presentation on the terrible events in Montreal. In Winnipeg, members attended the sunrise vigil at the Manitoba Legislature and the Manitoba Federation of Labour’s commemorative brunch, where NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine delivered a bracing speech about the experience of the families affected by Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Edmonton members attended the AFL Commemorative Brunch December 3rd.
Edmonton Area Council hosted a Solidarity Brunch for Locals in October with guest speaker Maria Fitzpatrick speaking on Domestic Violence and Perry Garvin of the United Way speaking on Mental Health issues in the workplace. The Edmonton Regional Women’s Committee participated in the Solidarity Brunch put on by the Area Council and completed the Food for Women campaign successfully raising $2,100 to donate grocery cards to the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters and Seniors Association of the Greater Edmonton.
Edmonton Regional office hosted an open house in December for the general membership and allies.
Regina Human Rights and Women’s Committees co-hosted a Seasonal Open House on December 9th in honour of National Human Rights Day. Guest Speaker was Regina Youth Poet Austin Ahenakew. He recited some of his poetry which focused around issues faced by indigenous children and youth.
The Winnipeg Regional Women’s Committee has donated to organizations such as an inner city breakfast program, the Bear Clan Patrol, and $400 of new underwear for Centre Flavie-Laurent, which offers assistance and comfort to the impoverished and the vulnerable by distributing at no cost clothing, furniture and household items.
The Winnipeg Area Council took the lead in organizing PSAC’s participation in the Winnipeg Santa Claus Parade which brings a lot of exposure for PSAC in the community. Several members constructed, decorated and walked with the PSAC float on November 18th. The Winnipeg Area Council has also organized Phoenix Pay System rallies every pay day since August by encouraging locals to step up and be the lead local. The rallies have been held both at MP’s offices and outside of our workplaces.
On November 24th the Westman Area Council participated in the United Way Christmas Tree Auction and helped to raise over $33,600 this year for the Westman area. The Christmas Tree Auction helps to provide gifts and tress to families in need in the community. The trees are “auctioned off” and contribute to the campaign.
Employees at the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in Winnipeg ratified a new collective agreement in November.
The newly formed Academic Capacity unit at the University of Saskatchewan has ratified its first collective agreement in October. Negotiations for Post Doctorate workers continue at the University of Saskatchewan.
A critical round of bargaining is underway for DCL Local 40004 at Casino Regina. With the Sask Party mandated wage cut of 3.5% still not withdrawn, our members are focused on supporting the bargaining team and strategizing on working with other unions.
Negotiations are underway for the UVAE members at Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg. Similar to Sask., UVAE members are subject to Bill 28 which mandates 2 years of 0%, 1 year of 0.75% and 1 year of 1%. PSAC Prairies is participating in a charter challenge with other unions looking to have Bill 28 declared unconstitutional.
Negotiations for UCTE members at the Port of Churchill are progressing slowly but the goal is to have a tentative agreement in place should any sale of the Port be finalized.
A tentative agreement has been reached for the English Language Program at the University of Winnipeg. First contract negotiations for the Research Associates/Assistants Unit, and the Academic Capacity Unit is in negotiations for its second contract.
A tentative agreement has been reached at Brandon University. In this round of negotiations, we were faced with the Public Service Sustainability Act (Bill 28). This new legislation introduced by the Manitoba Progressive Conservative government imposes a 2-year wage freeze on all public sector workers – including students who work at BU – and wage restrictions for another 2 years. This legislation violates our constitutional right to free collective bargaining, and we have joined forces with other unions to file a court case against the Pallister government.
Following a difficult round of negotiations, UNE members at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights ratified a collective agreement on December 20th. This is the second agreement for this bargaining unit and the first agreement negotiated since the Museum officially opened. A priority for the bargaining team going into this round of negotiation was for issues related to front line staff and managements use and abuse of precarious workers. The team was successful in gaining protections for these members.
Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President