REVP Report to the Prairie Region Council – February 2015

Report of the Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President to the Prairie Region Council submitted for the February 27-28, 2015 meeting. This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting.


Report of the Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President to the Prairie Region Council submitted for the February 27-28, 2015 meeting. This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting.

For reports of the Prairie Region Council Representatives, visit the PRC page.

MARIANNE HLADUN
PSAC Prairies REVP
Report to Prairie Region Council, February 2015

REGIONAL STRATEGIC PLAN

Since the Prairies Summit in September, the steering committee has been meeting regularly via conference call. Their role is to monitor progress and ensure we’re working strategically to implement the plans and ideas developed at the Summit. These calls have been very helpful and we’re steadily working our way through our planned actions.

The monthly 19th Day of Action events are one aspect of this plan. After officially launching this initiative in the Prairies on November 19, it has quickly grown with more locals joining this movement and participating in actions each month. Some of the more popular actions have been photo ops with members wearing surgical masks and holding “standing together for public services/standing together for fairness” signs. We’ve also had several locals hold information pickets.

March 19 will be a major, cross-country event, with many of the National Joint Council unions committing to participate and stand together for healthy workplaces. We’re taking 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.

As discussed at the Leading Change course in Winnipeg last month, I hope you will continue to work toward our goal of organizing members to be ready to face the challenges ahead and mobilize actions in their own workplaces. That means to empower and equip members with what they need to do the work.

Another part of the regional strategic plan was to hold monthly, interactive webinars for members to learn about critical issues and get important updates. We’ve already held two webinars, with four more scheduled for the coming months. 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.

The webinars are also an opportunity for members to ask questions and give feedback. The response from members has been very positive. In a post-webinar survey, participants rated our latest webinar “excellent”, saying the information presented was “very useful”. 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.

As part of our regional strategy to work together with other unions and allies, PSAC members attended the CLC Election Preparation Conferences in Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Edmonton. This training prepared members for the upcoming federal election and potentially for provincial elections in 2015 and 2016. Members who attended made a commitment to being part of the activist team working on PSAC’s election strategy in the region through the area councils. 

We also worked with a specialist to produce a detailed political analysis of the Prairie Region. All eight area councils in the Prairies have been provided with a printed copy of this important information, which will be an invaluable resource as they prepare and plan for the upcoming federal election.

CONFERENCES & EDUCATION

Immediately following the Prairies Summit and our last PRC meeting in Regina, we held two regional conferences, including the Prairies Young Workers’ Conference and the Prairies Separate Employers Conference.

Nearly 40 young workers attended the Prairies Young Workers’ Conference, which was an important networking and educational opportunity for young members. During the two days, participants spent time learning more about their union, getting to know other members and sharing workplace experiences.

Meanwhile, 22 members from various separate employer locals and directly chartered locals gathered for the concurrent Separate Employers Conference. The gathering was the first of its kind in almost six years. Conference objectives included learning about the PSAC structure, how to deal with management, grievance-handling techniques and to develop leaders to lead others in the locals.

PSAC was proud to sponsor the ChildCare2020 National Conference, the first national childcare policy conference in a decade, held in Winnipeg, November 13-15. The conference brought together parents, early childhood educators, union activists, researchers and politicians to envision what childcare could look like in 2020 if governments really cared. We brought a strong delegation of PSAC sisters from across the country together for the event, re-confirming our union’s commitment to affordable and accessible childcare.

Toward the end of the year, regional offices throughout the Prairies held Activist Schools for PSAC members who are active in their union, eager to build workplace power and interested in doing political and social activism work. Dozens of activists participated in the training aimed at giving activists the tools and skills they need to support political and social activism, as well as prepare them to have meaningful and motivational conversations with co-workers.

Health and safety information sessions were held in Regina, Prince Albert, Edmonton and Calgary. The 90-minute sessions reviewed the significant changes that will affect all of our members on a daily basis with the introduction of Bill C-4. Members appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the topic and committed to taking the information back to their locals and building on the awareness and education. We also held a two-day course in Saskatoon, which compiled material from two PSAC courses, “H&S in PSAC Workplaces” and “Bill C-4 – Fighting for Our Lives”.

The PSAC’s Union Development Program (UDP) is now underway with seven participantsfrom the Prairies. UDP has been one of the most comprehensive union leadership training programs in Canada for more than 35 years. The New UDP will provide an advanced learning opportunity for emerging leaders to develop the necessary analysis and skills to identify and support union priorities, and to expand our pool of skilled activists who can inspire others. The first in-person meeting for UDP Prairies/North participants will be held in Winnipeg, March 19-22.

HEALTH & SAFETY TOUR

The Prairies health and safety tour kicked off in October with worksite visits taking place throughout Saskatchewan. Clint Wirth, Regional Representative – Health & Safety, met with hundreds of PSAC members as he visited eight different worksites in five different cities and towns, including Fort Qu’Appelle, Melville, Yorkton, Regina and Prince Albert. The tour continued in November with stops in Alberta, including Edmonton and Calgary.

During the visits, Clint met with local executives and workplace H&S committees, toured the facilities, and had discussions about various H&S topics, such as the right to refuse, definition of danger and how Bill C-4 affects H&S in the workplace. He also had the opportunity to answer questions and address members’ concerns specific to the workplace, including ergonomics, general safety and security measures, safety supplies, workloads, building a H&S network and further H&S training.

Though dates have yet to be confirmed, we’re looking at dates in March for similar worksite visits and information sessions in Winnipeg and Brandon.

BARGAINING

The Royal Canadian Mint has tabled a sick leave proposal similar to the Treasury Board proposal. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Protective Services Officers, the newest unit at the Royal Canadian Mint, meets again in February.

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. Negotiations are scheduled to commence in March.

Negotiations have stalled for the first collective agreement with Churchill Marine Tank Farm Company. An unfair labour practice is being filed.

Bargaining is currently underway for several airports. The collective agreement with Saskatoon Airport Authority expired June 30, 2014. Proposals were exchanged in November with first round of negotiations in January and the next round scheduled for March. At the Winnipeg Airport, the collective agreement with Avion Services Corporation expired at the end of 2014 and our first round of negotiations is scheduled for February. The collective agreement with Winnipeg Airport Authority expires this June, so the input call was served in January and notice to bargain will be in March.

During negotiations with Treasury Board in January, PSAC tabled proposals seeking significant improvements to the mental health provisions in collective agreements as well as improved childcare options for public service workers. Members of the Parks, CRA, and Royal Canadian Mint bargaining teams have all met with their employers recently. CFIA members also gathered last month at the CFIA National Bargaining Conference. For more updates on these national teams, visit the PSAC national website.

The Prairies commends our Treasury Board 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 and solidarity 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.

On March 16, we will hold a regional telephone town hall for Treasury Board members regarding bargaining and sick leave. This town hall is being offered to Treasury Board members in all regions. In the Prairies, we will also hold a webinar specific to our members employed by agencies and separate employers to discuss bargaining issues specific to those workplaces.

LABOUR RIGHTS

In January, the Supreme Court of Canada released a groundbreaking decision that enshrines the right to strike as a constitutionally protected right. PSAC was one of several unions, civil liberties and business groups that intervened in this case. PSAC and other unions argued that the essential services law limited workers’ rights to strike and ability to negotiate. The Court agreed with unions that the right to strike is necessary to allow workers to join together effectively to advance their workplace rights. Now we’re calling on the federal government to respect this decision by repealing Bill C-4 and restoring our democratic rights.

Earlier in the month, the Supreme Court of Canada released another important decision that reinforces workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining with their employer. PSAC was an intervener in the case and supported the Appellants in their constitutional challenge. The Supreme Court found that the federal labour laws, which prevent RCMP members from joining a union of their choice and engaging in collective bargaining, violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This decision is a major victory for all workers in their right to unionize freely and independently.

Unfortunately, not all of the recent labour developments have been positive. The Senate has passed Bill C-525, a law that will make it harder for workers to unionize in the federal sector, despite the fact that Senators on the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee heard no evidence to prove the bill was necessary. The Committee also discovered errors in the Bill, yet voted against the necessary changes to fix it. Once the law comes into force in 2015, PSAC will be monitoring the mandatory votes that will be required when workers in the federal sector opt to join our union.

NATIONAL UPDATES

I had the privilege to facilitate a meeting of PSAC’s young worker regional representatives in Ottawa last month. This was the first meeting of its kind since the establishment of the Young Worker Initiative in the 2012-15 PSAC Budget. Eight Young Worker Reps participated, one from each region, including the two co-chairs from NCR. The group identified a list of challenges and successes and developed a three-year plan of action, which was presented to the AEC in person by the committee––a first for the AEC. The committee will make a full presentation at the NBoD meeting in March.

PSAC launched an online petition asking people to take the pledge to support paid sick leave for federal government workers, and for all workers across Canada. Over 33,000 people have taken the pledge to date. If you haven’t already, visit the PSAC national website to take the pledge.

The member information dashboard on the PSAC national website received some improvements in December. Members can now log in to the website to get news about their employer, their collective agreement, and contact information for their region, component or local. Members will still be able to update their contact information, but the new dashboard page now delivers much more information.

PSAC has released several videos over the past couple months, including one that highlights some of the work that TC members do and why it’s important to them, and to all of us. The other video, which debuted at the ChildCare 2020 Conference, shows what childcare could look like in 2020 if governments really invested now. The video underscores the fact that all Canadian children deserve so much better than the patchwork of care that is available now. Watch the videos on the PSAC National YouTube channel and share them among your networks.

While federal budgets are typically due in February or March, Finance Minister Joe Oliver has delayed the 2015 budget until April at the earliest. The reason given is uncertain market conditions, which raises questions about how the Conservatives will keep their promise to run a surplus by 2015. A Rabble column last month stated, “an obsessive concern with short term fiscal balance, especially in times of weak economic growth, can lead governments to adopt austerity policies that exacerbate rather than alleviate economic distress.” We already know the kind of damage this government is capable of, so we’ll certainly be watching the upcoming budget to see how it will impact our members and the broader labour movement.

Respectfully submitted,

Marianne Hladun,
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies