Report of the Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President to the Prairie Region Council submitted for the February 2016 meeting. This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Prairie Region Council February 2016
NEW YEAR, NEW MANDATE?
I want to take this opportunity to thank all PRC members and activists who actively participating by stepping up to ensure we saw change in Ottawa. Members who volunteered for phone banks, stuffing envelopes, organized and attended candidate forums and those who took to the streets to doorknock for progressive candidates need to be acknowledged. We would not have seen the change without those efforts.
While it was disappointing to see the NDP lose so many seats across the country in the federal election, it was heartening to see the increased voter turnout––the highest since 1993––and the overwhelming message from Canadians that we deserve better and expect more from our government.
With the election of Justin Trudeau and the new Liberal government, we would like to see a new tone and open dialogue with the government. We want to maintain the momentum from our election campaign by focusing on lobbying efforts currently underway.
Our goal is to lobby all new and returning Members of Parliament by mid-March when the budget is scheduled for tabling. We have been working with regional offices and Area Councils to make sure that this lobbying effort is member-driven. Members are asking MPs to reinvest in federal public services and to respect collective bargaining rights.
It’s important to note that we have seen some important concessions from the Liberal government, like repealing C-377 and C-525, two bills that were designed to weaken unions with unreasonable financial reporting and to make it more difficult to join a union.
That said, we are really disappointed to see that the Liberal plan for sick leave essentially mirrors the Conservative government’s proposal. Negotiators met at the bargaining table on the week of February 1 and there is no improvement on sick leave provisions. PSAC is scheduled to return to the bargaining table on March 7 and April 11.
We also need to maintain our momentum as we head into provincial elections in Saskatchewan (April 4, 2016) and Manitoba (April 19, 2016). We have many members in both provinces under provincial jurisdiction and there is a definite threat to members from potential right-wing governments.
In Saskatchewan, Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party government is riding high in the polls, but their dominance is impacting public services across the board. Crown Corporations are at risk of privatization––despite a campaign promise that explicitly stated otherwise––and labour rights are being stomped on. The NDP made headway in several important ridings in Saskatchewan in the federal election, which may signal Saskatchewan residents are ready for progressive representation at the legislature.
In Manitoba, the NDP remains in power but is at risk. The alternative is truly frightening, with the Progressive Conservatives promising wide reaching cuts to public services and a right-wing agenda on social issues.
In the lead up to the federal election, Siobhan Vipond, Secretary-Treasurer for the Alberta Federation of Labour, joined us on our telephone town hall to share her experiences and the important role labour played in the Alberta provincial election. We hope to incorporate some of the lessons learned in Alberta, and more recently in the federal election, to our upcoming provincial elections.
We will also be participating in the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour campaign and the Manitoba Federation of Labour’s campaign called the Working Families Manitoba.
We need to coordinate activities to ensure that our members are aware of the issues; of the potential impacts of the provincial elections; and to ensure that members get out to vote. I know PSAC members will step up to the challenge as they did in the federal election and work together with other unions and community groups to promote election issues.
The Academic Capacity Unit at the University of Winnipeg, consisting of teaching assistants, markers, tutors, and lab demonstrators, met with the employer on January 27 to continue negotiations for the first collective agreement. There is no consistent process in place now for hiring. We are seeking fair and transparent job posting, application and selection processes. We return to the table for two days on Feb 18-19.
The bargaining team also met with the University of Winnipeg Student Association. The UWSA, along with the faculty union, passed resolutions to call on the university to become a living wage employer. The UWSA and other campus groups held a strategic meeting on February 17 to plan actions to get the university to demonstrate its commitment to social justice and becoming a better employer. We’re thrilled to have this solidarity.
Members working for the Royal Canadian Mint (Winnipeg & Ottawa) ratified a new agreement on January 13 and 15. Members are very pleased that sick leave provisions remain intact. The Winnipeg Protective Services Officers unit at the Mint is still in bargaining. The last round was January 26-29, with significant progress made.
The collective agreement for the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development expired on August 7, 2015. We exchanged proposals with the employer on January 19 and the next round was scheduled for February, 2016.
Members working for the Marine Tank Farm ratified their first collective agreement. Meanwhile, we issued a notice to bargain for members at Port of Churchill
On behalf of our National President, I participated in a mission to Bangladesh with our Social Justice Fund. The objective was to get an update on our efforts with unions and NGOs representing workers in the garment sector in Bangladesh following the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013. A full update will be presented to the June NBOD meeting.
The next National Board of Directors meeting is taking place February 23-26, 2016.
COURSES AND CONFERENCES
Over 60 members attended seven regional education meetings over the past couple months to provide feedback and suggestions for union education. Looking ahead, we will try to incorporate some of their new ideas to make the program more effective, including offering education in a variety of times, places and formats. We also received suggestions to help promote the education program and will develop some new tools to assist. The PRC Education Committee participated in their local meetings and will prepare a draft education plan, which will be circulated for feedback before it gets finalized in the spring.
Over 20 Prairies members participated in the popular Unionism on Turtle Island course December 12-16, 2015 at the PSAC Edmonton Regional Office. Offered to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members as a means of sharing stories and perspectives, participants explored important issues such as the history of oppression and resistance, Aboriginal issues at the bargaining table, creating a representative workforce and opening the union to Aboriginal activists.
Work is underway for our next regional conferences. The inaugural Prairies Racially Visible Conference will be held September 9-11, 2016, in Winnipeg and the Prairies Regional Women’s Conference will be held June 11-12, 2016, in Winnipeg.
The PSAC Prairie Region is pleased to host the first Waskawetohta (Taking Action) Conference for First Nation, Inuit and Métis activists from April 22 to 24, 2016, in Winnipeg.
Our region was shaken by the recent violence in La Loche, Saskatchewan. PSAC members throughout the Prairie Region stand together with the residents of La Loche as they mourn the victims of January’s shooting. Four people lost their lives and another seven were injured in this terrible tragedy.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies