Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairie Region
Report to the Manitoba Federation of Labour Executive Council
As highlighted in my last report, PSAC members are holding actions throughout the Prairies and across Canada on the 19th of each month and leading up to the next federal election. These events are meant to highlight the destructive policies and reckless cuts of the Conservative government and show support for our PSAC bargaining teams.
March 19 will be a major, cross-country event to take a stand against a government and employer that has contributed to our toxic workplaces and, to make matters worse, is now proposing a “go to work sick” plan. We are inviting all of our union sisters and brothers to join us. Many of the National Joint Council unions have already committed to participate and stand together for healthy workplaces. In Winnipeg, we are holding a rally on Thursday, March 19 from 12:15 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. outside Union Station (123 Main Street). I hope you will join us and encourage your members to do the same.
In January, we launched our monthly, interactive webinars for members to learn about critical issues and get important updates. Our first webinar on bargaining basics was held on January 19, featuring Tom Milne, Prairies Regional Negotiator, as our guest speaker. On February 11, we held a webinar on retirement security. Guest speakers were Barb Byers, CLC Secretary-Treasurer, and Chris Roberts, CLC National Director - Social and Economic Policy Department. Our upcoming webinars will be on childcare, political action, labour history and health and safety. All webinars are posted to the PSAC Prairies YouTube channel following the event.
Our Winnipeg committees have held several events recently. The Winnipeg Regional Women’s Committee hosted a special event with guest speaker Deanne Crothers, Minister of Healthy Living and Seniors, who spoke on the importance of political action and work/life balance. On a separate occasion, the Winnipeg RWC welcomed Anna Pazdzierski, Executive Director of Nova House Inc., a shelter for abused women and children in the Interlake Region of Manitoba. She spoke about the impact that federal government cuts has had on their ability to provide services.
As you may have heard, Julian Fantino was replaced as Minister of Veterans Affairs in January, almost a year after he disrespected a group of veterans who had come to Ottawa to ask the government to stop the closure of veterans’ affairs offices. We have called on the new Minister, Erin O’Toole, to re-open the offices and to address the many problems veterans are facing. Last January, the federal government closed down nine Veterans Affairs offices, including one in Brandon and one in Saskatoon. Over 17,000 veterans depended on services provided by these offices, with over 2,400 in Brandon.
Last month, PSAC members distributed postcards condemning the closures of Veterans Affairs offices across Canada. Members of the PSAC Westman Area Council organized this initiative by rounding up a team of volunteers to flag down cars just past the port of entry at Boissevain. Dozens of cards pulled over, despite the freezing temperatures, to discuss the impact of the closures for our veterans. Those who pulled over were very interested in learning more and took extra postcards to distribute to their friends.
The 2014 Public Service Employee Survey was released last month and demonstrated the negative impact of public service cuts. The survey results also raised major concerns about the continuing problems of harassment and poor mental health in the public service. The survey is conducted every three years, and takes an important snapshot of how federal government workers feel about their jobs and work environment.
Even before the survey was released, PSAC tabled proposals during negotiations with Treasury Board seeking significant improvements to the mental health provisions in their collective agreements as well as improved childcare options for public service workers. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, approximately 1 in 5 Canadians, or seven million citizens, will experience a mental health problem this year. Many of these problems relate in some way to the workplace.
Several bargaining units are at the table in Manitoba. The Royal Canadian Mint has tabled a sick leave proposal similar Treasury Board’s. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Protective Services Officers, the newest unit at the Mint, met again last month. We have established bargaining committees for the two units at the University of Winnipeg and are in the process of putting together the program of demands. Finally, negotiations have stalled for the first collective agreement with Churchill Marine Tank Farm Company. An unfair labour practice has been filed.
The Prairies commends our bargaining team members for working tirelessly to negotiate a fair agreement and protect our sick leave. This fight is not just being fought at the bargaining table; it’s being fought in workplaces across the country. That’s why Prairies members recorded messages of support to send to PSAC bargaining teams meeting with Treasury Board, and the smaller bargaining teams currently in negotiations across the country. The video has been posted on the PSAC Prairies YouTube channel.
For more information on anything mentioned in this report, visit prairies.psac.com.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies