PRC Report (Nov. 2011)


Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the Prairie Region Council submitted for the November 2011 meeting. This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting.

Robyn Benson
PSAC REVP Prairies
November 2011 Report to Prairie Region Council

Last month, we held leadership meetings in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Calgary, as part of our ongoing Prairies on Patrol fight back efforts. In total we had104 locals participate with the RVPs, NVPs, and PRC members.

These meetings were an opportunity to engage Prairie leaders in a dialogue about how we can work together to effect change in our locals and in our communities. It was a chance for me to personally ask our leaders to take on some very important campaigns, and to also to find out how we can help, and the resources needed, to accomplish our goals.

Members were especially interested to discuss the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and their attacks on public service workers. Referencing the resources developed nationally, we discussed the best ways to dispel the lies being spread by CFIB President Catherine Swift, and how to promote the benefits of strong public services. Prairie leaders had many great ideas on how we can fight back against the CFIB. You can find more information about PSAC’s efforts to fight back against the CFIB at

As well we discussed the national petition to Treasury Board President Tony Clement, and the urgency to get as many signatures as possible. This petition calls on the Conservative government to reverse plans to cut jobs and public services by $4-billion per year.  It is crucial to send a strong message to our MPs, and to Stephen Harper, that Canadians do no support his government’s regressive, deficit reduction plans.

Although there were many events over the late summer where we were able to do an out reach to the affiliates with respect to the petition since our meeting at least one special event was planned to promote the petition. Local 50031 at the Winnipeg Tax Centre organized a coffee and donuts day and took the opportunity to speak to members about how cuts to services undermine our safety, our health and our environment. More than 550 members committed their support to strong public services and left with informational flyers on the planned cuts to share with friends and colleagues. Events like this help collect a large number of signatures, in an effort to reach our goal of 250,000 signatures, and to protect, maintain, and improve federal public services for all Canadians.

I am sure that all of you filled out the “Our Union, Our Power” survey at the Prairie Region Triennial Convention, but we are now making a concerted effort to promote this survey to members and garner as much feedback as possible to help us build the Members’ Plan for the PSAC National Convention.

The Members’ Plan will present some new ideas while focusing on some key challenges for our union and on results we can attain. It’s a chance for PSAC to engage the broader membership in the Convention process, and take direction on want the members want from their union and what they are willing to do for their union.

As Chair of the sub-committee responsible for gathering input from members and drafting the Plan, I have been especially determined to promote the survey and ensure that the voices of our Prairie members are included in this plan. Please ensure that the website is widely advertised.

Two of the provinces in our region recently had provincial elections, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and our area councils in those provinces were busy encouraging members to get out and vote for labour friendly candidates. We also hosted a telephone town hall for the Manitoba election as a way to allow members to learn about election issues. Brother Kevin Rebeck, President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, joined me to discuss the priorities that affect working families. 

Over the past few months, all 17 Components of the PSAC have held their triennial conventions and elected their executive/executive council. I would like to congratulate the Prairie members who were elected by convention delegates to represent their respective components, including several Prairie Region Council Members.

Congratulations to: Brother Kevin King, UNE RVP for Alberta, NWT and Nunavut; Sister Gloria Kelly, UNDE Human Rights Advisor; Sister Marianne Hladun, Agriculture RVP for Northern Saskatchewan; and Sister Susan Norman who replaced Brother Don Rogers as CEIU NVP for Manitoba, after Brother Rogers was elected CEIU National President. Congratulations to all.

I’m also happy to announce the creation of our seventh Regional Women’s Committee in the Westman area, Manitoba. This is something members on the Westman Area Council have been seeking for some time now. With support from UNE, CEIU and Agriculture, the request was submitted to and approved by the AEC at the June 2011 meeting.

Earlier this fall, more than 100 delegates from every part of the country came together in Yellowknife for the National Aboriginal Peoples’ Conference. I’d like to congratulate Sister Alisha Bigelow and Brother Alex George on being re-elected as NAPC Female and Male Reps for the Prairies.

We are continuing to make progress in negotiations for the first collective agreement at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the local is now fully functional. The newly certified local at the University of Winnipeg, representing teaching assistants, tutors, lab demonstrators and markers, is also making headway and will have the first general assembly in early December. Meanwhile, there is an ongoing organizing drive at UofW for some classifications that weren’t included in our initial bargaining unit.

Over the past year, we’ve engaged the young workers in our region with the Young Workers in Action course and our Young Workers Conference. Through these events, our union’s young workers have made it clear that they want to get more involved and are eager to establish an informal Young Workers Committee. We have started the work in the region to collect information from young members and establish a database to move forward with this.

PSAC’s Social Justice Fund, working with Co Development Canada, recently offered young workers in the Prairies an exciting opportunity to attend a young workers delegation to Central America to learn about union international solidarity programs. We received nearly 30 applications, making the final decision especially difficult. Sister Rachel Albiez, a Citizen Service Officer for Service Canada in Lethbridge, Alberta, was chosen to represent the Prairie Region on this excursion, based on the quality of her application and commitment to social justice.

We have also made a point to acknowledge and celebrate our stewards and their important contributions to our union. I’d like to thank the Calgary Area Council for doing their part to show their appreciation of our stewards by hosting a “Celebrate the Steward BBQ”. We will be doing more work to develop our stewards’ network in the new year, including holding steward assemblies across the region. We are very excited about this opportunity to engage our stewards and build steward networks.

Last month we launched the new PSAC Prairie Region website, as part of a website renewal program that all regions are undergoing. The new website was designed to allow for improved navigation and to streamline course registration. We are also able to have an added focus on regional features, and will be exploring new web content ideas over the coming months. There is, however, still improvements to be made, and we are working with members and staff on an ongoing basis to ensure their needs for the website are met.

Following PSAC regional conventions this summer, the REVP’s were assigned new portfolios to oversee. I am jointly responsible for the following national portfolios: Collective Bargaining, Classification, Pay Equity, Representation, Legislative Change and Occupational Group Structure Review; Education; Women’s Program and Women’s Rights; Human Rights; Technical Services (TC) bargaining unit; and CFIA bargaining unit. I also represent PSAC on the Canadian Labour Congress Executive Committee as a General Vice President, the NDP Federal Council, and the PSAC Dental Board and sit on the following PSAC National Board of Directors Committees: Collective Bargaining Committee; Education; and National Human Rights Committee.

Given that this is my first official report since the Prairie Region Triennial Convention, I’d like to welcome all of the newly elected PRC members, as well as those who were re-elected to another term, to the Council. Sadly, Sister Jennifer Borean has resigned from her position as the Southern Saskatchewan Geographic Representative. I would like to thank her for the work she has done and welcome Brother Steve Van Opstal, the alternate in that position, who will now join the PRC in Sister Borean’s place.

You are a dedicated group of activists, with diverse skills and experience, and I look forward to working with each of you over the next three years. These are especially trying times, with a Conservative majority intent on dismantling the federal public service, and we will need to be especially focused in all of the work that we do. Considering federal public service executives have now lost their severance pay benefits and are on par with PSAC members who negotiated a similar agreement with Treasury Board last year, it’s clear that the Conservatives are committed to eliminating the deficit at all costs.

In Solidarity,

Robyn Benson
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies