Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the Prairie Region Council submitted for the April 19-20, 2013 meeting. This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting.
Marianne Hladun, REVP Prairies
Report to Prairie Region Council, April 2013
I’d like to welcome two new representatives to the Prairie Region Council. Brother Keith Gauthier was elected the new Young Worker Rep. He is a member of DCL Local 40005 at Casino Regina and also sits as the PSAC representative on the SFL Young Workers Committee. Sister Darlene Lewis also joins us as the Edmonton Area Council Representative. She is a member of the National Health Union (NHU) in Edmonton and sits on the Edmonton RWC.
I’d also like to thank the outgoing PRC reps for their hard work and dedication to this region. Sister Nina Kiviluoma vacated her position as Edmonton Area Council Rep to fulfill her new staff role as administrative assistant in the Calgary Regional Office. Sister Amanda-Rose Bourget stepped down as Young Workers Rep after taking a new job outside of the federal public service. Both Sisters will be certainly be missed in the Prairies and I wish them all the best in their new roles.
Since our last PRC meeting, held October 12-13, 2012 in Regina, we’ve experimented with different ways to improve communication on the Council and ensure reps have all the information they need to fulfill their duties.
Our monthly calls have been very helpful to pass on critical information and updates as they happen. We’ve also been forwarding reps daily media scans from PSAC HQ with links to media articles regarding PSAC, the federal government, the labour movement and more. They contain a lot of good information and I encourage everyone to glance over these each day.
While we’re making every effort to ensure the PRC is functioning efficiently and effectively, we’re still having a lot of difficulty reaching many PRC reps, and the participation level in our monthly calls is disappointing. I can’t stress enough how important is for reps to respond to our e-mails and inquiries. We have a lot going on right now and it’s really frustrating when there’s no feedback or response. We’re trying to send out more information, but not getting feedback.
The National Board of Directors has unanimously endorsed a plan to protect our members against new threats to our collective agreement rights. This plan includes daylong meetings across the country to discuss the plan and to receive special training on how to organize our members to respond to the latest Conservative threats facing PSAC members. One representative from each local will be funded, component officers will be funded from components, and regional councils will be funded by council funds.
Meetings will be held April 29 in Edmonton, April 30 in Calgary, May 8 in Saskatoon, May 9 in Regina and May 14 in Winnipeg. I will attend each meeting and look forward to meeting with local leaders to strategize for our future. PSAC membership has been affected by the ongoing cuts to federal public services and our mandate needs to be to change the government in 2015. We need the help of each and every member to do whatever it takes to fit into that mandate.
Fifty-five Prairies delegates attended the 2013 National Health & Safety Conference in Montreal, held April 12-14, under the very important theme of Mental Health at Work. PSAC received a record number of applications this year, with over 1,000 members applying to attend and only about 300 spots available.
Important health and safety issues such as bullying, violence in the workplace, disability management and mental health in the workplace have been especially prevalent within the Prairies over the past few months since the 2012 Prairies Regional Health & Safety Conference, held November 17-18, 2012 in Edmonton. I was pleased to speak to delegates at the conference to reaffirm our commitment to health and safety in this region and strategize on how we can improve working conditions for our members and all workers. Health and safety means prevention, education, and awareness, and requires committees and reps to know their authority and exercise it before something happens.
Unfortunately, due to low registration, we cancelled the Prairies Separate Employer Conference “Building a Better Union!” set to be held October 26-28, 2012 in Winnipeg. This would have been our second conference of this nature, specifically designed for representatives of our members who work for separate employers and DCL’s in the Prairie Region. We’re hoping to reschedule in the future.
Over 600 delegates attending the SFL Convention, October 31-November 3 in Regina, passed two resolutions from PSAC including one supporting PSAC’s “We Are All Affected” campaign and an emergency resolution to support the “Protect the Prairie” campaign and commitment to sign the petition.
A new one-day course, “A Woman’s Place Is In Her Union” was held in four regional offices in December as a follow up to the 2012 “Women at Work” course. Participants learned a lot about the herstory of women in labour and the workplace, and in PSAC specifically, as well as the challenges women continue to face and their struggles to achieve equality. Feedback was very positive, and Sisters appreciated the chance to get together to meet other Sisters with similar interests and to learn more about their union.
Nearly 1,500 enthusiastic labour activists gathered in Toronto from March 22-24 for the Canadian Labour Congress Political Action Conference, the largest conference the CLC has ever organized and the first National Political Action Conferencein its history. Representatives from every one of the CLC’s 54 affiliates attended over 40 different workshops aimed at shaping political activists into political organizers. PSAC sent three members from each region, including one youth delegate. Reports from the Prairies delegates have been posted on the Prairie Region website.
Coming up, we will host the PSAC Regional Women’s Conference in Banff May 3-5, 2013 under the theme “Telling Our Stories”. The last Regional Women’s Conference brought 72 sisters together in Saskatoon to discuss women’s issues and explore the role of women in defending public services.
The 2013-15 PSAC Prairies Regional Education Plan has been completed after much consultation with members across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. We’ve designed the plan to help us schedule education events that meet members’ needs on specific topics and skills, at a variety of times and locations, and using a variety of tools and methods. We also believe this plan will be flexible enough to adapt to emerging issues that may arise over the next three years. The full plan has been posted to the Prairie Region website.
PSAC members across the Prairies have been active in the Idle No More Movement. To help keep the momentum going, we developed Idle No More buttons to distribute throughout the Prairie Region. William Singer III, a First Nations artist and activist who has been instrumental to the movement in Lethbridge and surrounding areas, designed the button’s original artwork. The buttons were distributed to community groups and allies involved in the movement.
We have been holding community town hall meetings around the Don’t Sell Our Hot Springs campaign to give community members an opportunity to share their thoughts about the privatization of one of Canada’s most valuable natural treasures. Passionate residents from Jasper and surrounding areas gathered on January 28, while citizens of Radium Hot Springs gathered on February 29, to voice their concerns regarding the privatization of the Canadian Rockies Hot Springs.
This campaign has allowed us to have great discussions with First Nations communities. Before the town hall in Jasper, we met with First Nations and while in Radium Hot Springs we meet with the Akisqnuk First Nation (Columbia Valley, southeast BC) and the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council (Kamloops, BC).
At this point, we don’t know if the privatization is moving ahead or what’s happening at all. We will be holding a demo during the Regional Women’s Conference in Banff to call on the government to let our members and the communities affected know what’s going on.
We’re also hearing that this government will use a private member’s bill to change or eliminate the RAND Formula. If this bill is introduced, we see this being a critical fight in the near future for our members and the entire labour movement. We could be in for the fight of our lives. We need to be public and in the forefront, unlike with Bill C-377 where the work was done in the background.
The AEC approved every region to receive $12,000 toward young workers initiatives. Given that Young Workers is one of my AEC portfolios, I am working with all regions to ensure this money is used effectively to reach out to young workers within the PSAC.
Regionally, now that we have a new Young Workers Rep, we’ll look at the plan that Sisters Judy Shannon and Amanda Rose had started last year, which was to go to the ROs and talk to previously engaged young workers.
Towards the end of last year, we were doing a lot of work around the government’s decision to stop grooming ski trails in PA National Park, and a handful of other parks across the country, including Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park, Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park, and Alberta’s Elk Island National Park.
I sent a letter to Rob Clarke, the Conservative MP for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, voicing my concerns that we hadn’t heard from Mr. Clarke on the issue. The letter was published in The Prince Albert Daily Herald. Additionally, excerpts of this letter were used in an article in The StarPhoenix. I also submitted a letter to the editor of the The Prince Albert Daily Herald in response to an article they had published.
In March, the federal government introduced Budget 2013. The 400+ page document was filled with generic references to streamlining and finding efficiencies but gave few indications of where future cuts could be coming from. Cuts from Budget 2012 are still in the process with many members still waiting to see what’s coming up in the near future.
I was honoured to be a panelist at a lunch and learn in April sponsored by the MFL to talk about Budget 2013 and it’s impact on our members and communities. Other presenters included Peggy Nash, NDP MP and Official Opposition Finance Critic, and Paul Moist, CUPE National President.
PSAC Prairies members lost a colleague, friend and brother, with the passing of Brother Howard Willems in November. Howard worked as an inspector with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for more than 30 years before retiring in early 2012. After being diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos related cancer of the lungs, two years ago, Howard dedicated the final years of his life to advocating for asbestos awareness and protection with the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (SADAO).
With SADAO, he fought to establish a public registry right up to his last day and I am happy to say his efforts and his struggle were not in vain. On March 15, the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly voted to send Bill 604, a private member’s bill to create an asbestos registry of all public buildings under the Public Health Act, to committee. This is a very positive step forward and means that, after some consultation and changes, it could pass into law as early as this spring.
PSAC has been working together with SADAO, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Saskatchewan Lung Association to raise awareness and lobby the provincial government to implement Bill 604, aptly named “Howard’s Law”.
This is something Brother Howard worked very hard for and is an issue that affects all PSAC members working in federal buildings. I am honoured to participate in this ongoing campaign on behalf of my friend and one of the most dedicated activists PSAC has known.
Howard was also recently named the 2012 CBC Saskatchewan Person of the Year and was awarded the SFL Bob Sass Occupational Health and Safety Award at the SFL Convention just prior to his passing.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies