Regional Executive Vice-President
Prairie Region Council February 2018
This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting in July, 2017.
YOUNG WORKER COMMITTEES
In some excellent news to start 2018, Young Worker Committees have officially been formed in Edmonton and in Winnipeg. In Edmonton, the first meeting took place Tuesday, January 16th; In Winnipeg, the first meeting was held Thursday, January 18th.
Workers from outside Winnipeg and Edmonton were encouraged to get involved by calling into one of the two meetings. Big thanks to the PRC Young Worker’s Rep Mackenzie Campbell for all of her work in bringing this together.
YOUNG WORKER SUMMIT
Planning has begun for our next Prairies Young Workers’ Summit being held April 13-15, 2018 in Edmonton. Online registration is now available through the Prairies website and the deadline to apply is March 5, 2018. All PSAC members in good standing age 35 and under are eligible to apply.
CBSA RALLY IN REGINA
On December 19th, 2017 there was a successful rally for CIU members in Regina. As CIU members await the PIC report, the rally served as a show of support for the bargaining team who has been at the table fighting for a fair collective agreement that includes recognition of CBSA Officers as law enforcement. Thank you to everyone who came out to show their solidarity and to fight for a fair deal, including: CIU Saskatchewan Local 40031, PSAC Regina Area Council, PSAC Local 40005, USGE, UNE and CEIU.
Special thanks to Santa Claus (who reminds us an awful lot of CIU Sask. Branch 2nd VP and PSAC Prairie Region Young Worker’s Alternate Rep Glenn Hollyoake), Santa’s Chief Elf and the Gingerbread Man for stopping by to unveil Santa’s Naughty and Nice List. No surprise to see PM Trudeau, MP Ralph Goodale, MP Scott Brisson and MP Bill Morneau on the naughty list. Topping out the nice list… President Robyn Benson, CIU President JP Fortin, the FB Bargaining Team and I made the Nice list
SUPPORT OUR PORT
In an unending legal battle, Omnitrax has declared its intention to sue the federal government under NAFTA rather than live up to its duty to repair the rail line.
Waiting for lawsuits and counter suits to solve this issue only means more delays, more devastation and more hardship for the people of Churchill. The time is now to bring the Port and the railway into public hands.
PSAC has consistently called on the federal government to bring the Port of Churchill and the rail line back as a national asset so that it can return to full operation in the short term, and remain so for generations to come. Similar to an airport authority, port authority status would allow community and government representatives to sit on the board and be accountable to various stakeholders, including municipalities and Indigenous communities, instead of being focused solely on corporate shareholders. The Minister of Transport has the authority under the Canada Marine Act to amend the list of regulated port authorities by Order in Council or regulation.
It is also urgent that the Province of Manitoba institute a fuel subsidy to offset the exorbitant gasoline prices that northern communities are facing, and sit down with all the partners in Churchill to help develop an economic plan that includes fixing the rail line and re-opening the valuable Port of Churchill for business again.
Unfortunately, despite the significant media and community attention this issue has received, the provincial government failed to even mention the community of Churchill in their recent Speech From the Throne.
In the midst of the uncertainty, we continue to try achieve a renewed collective agreement to protect the UCTE members at the port should a sale go through and will continue to pressure both the provincial and the federal government to take solid action to restore rail service and get the port operational for the 2018 shipping season.
On July 19, I joined NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship MP Jenny Kwan along with Linda Duncan, NDP MP for Edmonton Strathcona, Shannon Stubbs, Conservative MP for Lakeland, Jessica Littlewood, NDP MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, the CEIU NVP and Local Executive members in Vegreville.
The meeting was scheduled with Vegreville mayor Myron Hayduk and most of the town councillors to discuss the impact of the CPC closure. All parties had an opportunity to express their concerns in their first face-to-face exchange and the group committed to continuing to work together.
Jessica Littlewood spoke to the province’s commitment to contribute to enhanced post-secondary opportunities in the Vegreville and surrounding areas—one of the main concerns cited by the department for the closure of the CPC. Myron Hayduk said the town has approved re-zoning to address access to housing which is another one of department’s concerns about the viability of keeping the CPC in Vegreville.
In January 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a Town Hall at the University of Saskatchewan. In response to a question about the Vegreville Case Processing Centre closure, he said: “Compensation and packages will be made available to those employees who do not wish to relocate.”
However, the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has since informed public service workers who do not wish to relocate that there will be no compensation and no packages. In fact, those who do not accept the department’s final offer to relocate will be laid off in August 2018.
That’s not right. And that’s not what the Prime Minister said would happen.
We are fighting this broken promise through the policy grievance process, while also continuing the fight to keep the Vegreville CPC open. But at the very least it’s not too late for the department to change course and keep the promise made by Prime Minister Trudeau.
On Nov. 27th, Sister Robyn Benson, National President and I toured the Vegreville Immigration Case Processing Centre and met with the Director to express our opposition to the closure and relocation Edmonton. Thank you to CEIU Local 30851 for the invitation to your Holiday dinner and membership meeting.
On Dec. 6th, Sister Robyn Benson, Sister Michelle Henderson, CEIU RVP Alberta and myself were to meet with Minister Hussen regarding the closure. Just hours prior to the meeting, the Minister cancelled but we were able to meet with the Minister’s Chief of Staff and department officials. The rationale for the closure is still a moving target with different reasons and we are awaiting further information promised by the department officials. We are also awaiting confirmation of a meeting with Sister Benson and the Minister.
On July 4, the Partnership to Defend Public Services, a group of public sector unions, filed for an injunction against the so-called Public Services Sustainability Act, recently passed by the Manitoba government. PSAC is one of the unions involved in the Partnership. This law fundamentally undermines collective bargaining rights. The Partnership filed a statement of claim in the Court of Queen’s Bench challenging the constitutionality of the Public Services Sustainability Act. The action includes a request for an injunction that would prevent the government from proclaiming the Act.
On August 10, 2017 Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announced that he would be stepping down/retiring. Scott Moe was selected as the new leader of the Saskatchewan Party on January 27, 2018.
The Official Opposition of Saskatchewan, NDP is also in a leadership race. Two candidates have declared and the date of the leadership convention has recently been moved forward to March 3, 2018.
On September 16, Manitoba NDP members selected Wab Kinew as their new leader and the Leader of the Official Opposition.
In Manitoba, I spoke at legislative hearings on Bill 23, the Fisheries Amendment Act. Our members at the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp. Winnipeg processing facility are the engineers that maintain the plant’s equipment.
We are concerned with the government’s decision to introduce Bill 23, especially the decision to withdraw from its participation agreement under the Freshwater Fish Marketing Act. While we acknowledge that fishers will still have the option of selling their fish via the FFMC, PSAC believes that a fundamental link in the fishing economy will be severely damaged – hurting fishers, their communities, and undermining the workers at the processing centre in Winnipeg.
PSAC believes that FFMC should remain a monopoly single-desk for the economic security and stability of all Manitoba fishers.
FFMC was created in 1969 and is located right here in Winnipeg. It was designed to give our small fishing communities strength and stability in terms of price and quality. Time and again, we have seen the ideological approach to “market freedom” has the same effects: small operators are cut out and wages are depressed.
In many ways, this feels like a re-play of the disastrous decision to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. While we submitted a written brief to the Legislative Committee, I took the opportunity to explain the similarities between the current situation in Churchill and the Federal Conservatives decision to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. I also supported northern indigenous fishers who presented to committee by calling on the provincial government to further develop a strategy and draft regulations before proclaiming Bill 23.
On behalf of PSAC members in the Alberta, I wrote to Premier Notley to congratulate her and her government on passing legislation to support Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta schools. The letter which was jointly signed with Brother Chris Little-Gagné, PRC LGBT Representative was well received by both the Premier’s office and the Minister of Education’s office.
The positive impact of Gay-Straight Alliances and other similar student organizations is clear. Bill 24 ensures that students can have access to peer support when they need it the most, and that every single school in Alberta that receives public dollars must have a policy that clearly allows students to form a gay-straight alliance. Because these policies will be made public by school authorities, there will be transparency and accountability to the students and communities they serve. It is vital that students know that their right to access the support they need is not subject to the whims of any one institution or individual.
TAKING ACTION AGAINST GENDER BASED VIOLENCE
November 25th to 27th, 2017 the Calgary Regional Women’s Committee hosted the “A Women’s Place is in Her Union” Retreat. This 3-day event included an evening of fellowship and conversation on November 25th, the course “A Women’s Place is in Her Union” and a workshop on Domestic Violence in the Workplace and Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Children, followed by a lunch. I was able to attend, as well as Sister Benson and guest speakers Constable Maria Wren of the Calgary Police Service’s Domestic Conflict Response Team and Josie Nepinak of Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society.
The course kicked off the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.
For the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, Regional Women’s Committees from throughout the Prairies attended local events. In Saskatoon, the Regional Women’s Committee met on December 6th and had a presentation on the Montreal massacre. In Winnipeg, members attended the sunrise vigil at the Manitoba Legislature and the Manitoba Federation of Labour’s commemorative brunch, where NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine delivered a bracing speech about the experience of the families affected by Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Edmonton members attended the AFL Commemorative Brunch December 3rd.
WINNIPEG AIRPORT STRIKE
On July 4, 2017 at 3:00 a.m., UCTE 50600 members hit the picket line. While monetary compensation was an issue, the main priority for the members at the Winnipeg Airport Authority was management’s excessive use of contractors. Throughout the strike that ended on Oct. 4, 2017, we had strong support from the Manitoba Federation of Labour and affiliates, including the Manitoba Teachers’ Society and MAHCP which was very active on our behalf and in support of picketers on the line.
Even with an injunction limiting picketing locations, UCTE members were able to maintain effective and visible picket lines. Several rallies were well attended by other PSAC members and other unions.
Many thanks to PSAC locals and other unions who collected donations and organized picketers. As we have all faced the threat of contracting out and/or privatizing, it is important that we support all efforts to stop the trend. Congratulations to the members of UCTE 50600 for standing solid against their employer’s attempt to pit members against each other and weaken their collective agreement.
PHOENIX PAY SYSTEM
PSAC and other unions representing federal public service workers are working together to ensure that the government pays damages to its employees for the ongoing Phoenix fiasco. PSAC has also been continuing to mobilize to keep the pressure on the government to fix the troubled pay system. PSAC members across the country are holding demonstrations in front of their MP’s offices.
PSAC’s priority remains getting our members paid correctly and on time. We welcome any system that would pay our members. It is unacceptable that, after nearly two years, the federal government still can’t pay its employees properly.
We know that our members are struggling with the consequences of inaccurate pay and PSAC will continue to push the government for additional help and support for our members. The government needs to step up its hiring process and expand the compensation capacity both in the pay centres and in departments.
Employees at the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in Winnipeg ratified a new collective agreement in November.
The newly formed Academic Capacity unit at the University of Saskatchewan has ratified its first collective agreement in October. Negotiations for Post Doctorate workers continue at the University of Saskatchewan.
A critical round of bargaining is underway for DCL Local 40004 at Casino Regina. With the Saskatchewan Party mandated wage cut of 3.5% still not withdrawn, our members are focused on supporting the bargaining team and strategizing on working with other unions.
Negotiations are underway for the UVAE members at Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg. Similar to Sask., UVAE members are subject to Bill 28 which mandates 2 years of 0%, 1 year of 0.75% and 1 year of 1%. PSAC Prairies is participating in a charter challenge with other unions looking to have Bill 28 declared unconstitutional.
Negotiations for UCTE members at the Port of Churchill are progressing slowly but the goal is to have a tentative agreement in place should any sale of the Port be finalized.
Bargaining demands have been prepared and negotiations will soon commence for UCTE Local 50602 SRG members at the Winnipeg Airport Authority.
Negotiations continue at CAHRD (Canadian Aboriginal Human Resource Development) DCL 55602.
Notice to bargain has been issued at the Calgary Airport Authority in behalf of UCTE Local 30301.
Negotiations are currently underway for the firefighters at the Edmonton Airport Authority. A priority of the bargaining team is to close the gap with other Edmonton-area firefighters.
A tentative agreement has been reached for the English Language Program at the University of Winnipeg. First contract negotiations for the Research Associates/Assistants Unit, and the Academic Capacity Unit is in negotiations for its second contract.
A tentative agreement has been reached at Brandon University. In this round of negotiations, we were faced with the Public Service Sustainability Act (Bill 28). This new legislation introduced by the Manitoba Progressive Conservative government imposes a 2-year wage freeze on all public sector workers – including students who work at BU – and wage restrictions for another 2 years. This legislation violates our constitutional right to free collective bargaining, and we have joined forces with other unions to file a court case against the Pallister government.
Following a difficult round of negotiations, UNE members at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights ratified a collective agreement on December 20th. This is the second agreement for this bargaining unit and the first agreement negotiated since the Museum officially opened. A priority for the bargaining team going into this round of negotiation was for issues related to front line staff and managements use and abuse of precarious workers. The team was successful in gaining protections for these members.
On a national note, Treasury Board members for the PA, SV, TC and EB tables will be attending the national bargaining conference in Ottawa March 26-29th. Bargaining team members will be elected for the upcoming round of negotiations. CFIA members are currently voting on a tentative agreement via webinar presentations and face-to-face meetings.
Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President