REVP Report to the Prairie Region Council May 2019
This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting.
For three years, our members have shared with us the hardship and pain caused by the federal government’s decision to bring in the Phoenix pay system. We have taken action, again and again, to highlight the dedication of our members to the people of Canada. Despite that, after two years of negotiations, the Liberal government has offered only 1.25 days of leave per year, for 4 years, as general compensation to every member who has fallen under the disastrous Phoenix system. PSAC could not agree to this meagre proposal. We have rejected it. Your union will continue to negotiate with the government to secure fair compensation for our hard-working members.
On the same day, we had to announce that we are declaring impasse in our contract negotiations for Treasury Board, after the Liberal government failed to make substantial progress towards a new contract. Teams representing 90,000 public service workers met with government officials from April 30 to May 2. We will not return to the bargaining table until the government shows a genuine willingness to deliver the fair deal our members deserve.
And shortly afterwards, UTE declared impasse with the Canada Revenue Agency. This is an incredibly disappointing pattern. In 2015, Justin Trudeau sent a letter to Canada’s public servants promising a new era of respect. We wanted to give him the opportunity to live up to those words, and have given this Liberal government every opportunity to make things right. And our members have made sure that there is no way we can be mistaken. Member have spent the past few months ramping up pressure on the federal Liberal government to deliver a fair deal at the bargaining table.
The government has to know that federal public service workers live in every riding in this country and that we are going to hold them accountable. We are determined to achieve a new contract for our members before the next election. Our members deserve better work-life balance, job security, to close the wage gaps that exist with the private sector, and fair wages that take into account all that our members have been through.
Action in the Prairies
After more than two years of not being able to adjust membership dues because the Phoenix system could not accept our changes, the “change file” began to be processed on November 14th. On November 22nd, the Prairie Region hosted a Webinar to discuss this issue and other updates. I took questions and provided as much information as possible to members.
The 2018 Prairie Region Health & Safety Conference was held November 17-18, 2018 in Saskatoon. On Saturday, the keynote speech was given by Chalaine Senger, a registered social worker who is employed as the labour consultant with the Canadian Mental Health Association – Saskatoon Branch. She delivered a fabulous presentation on mental health, encouraging union activists to practice self-care so that we are healthy and able to assist members in need. On Sunday afternoon, Jesse Todd (Board Chair of the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization – SADAO) provided an informative session on recent changes and initiatives in regards to asbestos, and answered questions from delegates workplace asbestos issues. Clint Wirth, the PSAC – Prairie Region Health and Safety Representative, gave a presentation on cannabis and the effect of legalization on workplaces. Over the course of two days, members participated in three workshops, including: Duty to Accommodate – People with Mental Health Disabilities; Psycho-social Hazards and Mental Health Issues in the Workplace; and Mobilizing Workplaces Through Health and Safety Issues.
Every year the Women’s Centre of Calgary operates a Toy Room for a two-week period and gives low income mothers the opportunity to “shop” for gifts for their children. The kids can also shop for something for their moms. This year PSAC’s Calgary Regional Women’s Committee volunteered to work at the Toy Room. They held a toy drive from November 13th to December 12th. On the evening of December 13th, the committee helped children and their mothers pick out gifts, wrapping them and bringing Christmas cheer.
Winnipeg Area Council members participated for a fourth year in the Santa Claus Day Parade on November 17th. The theme of the float this year was the “Here for Canada” campaign, drawing attention to the hard work of federal public service workers who continue to serve Canadians despite missed paychecks and financial hardship due to the Phoenix pay system.
On November 14th, the Lethbridge Area Council held a Payday Phoenix Pizza Picket attended by approximately 40-50 people. Even the wind was on our side making sure the flags from AGR, CIU, UTE, PSAC, CUPW and many other of our allies flew high! We also had some PIPSC, students and APSAR members attend. I was able to attend – thank you to Sister Krysty Munns for organizing the event!
On January 10th the Prairie Region hosted Treasury Board Bargaining Update Webinar. Thank you to Bargaining Team Members Nestor Galarnyk and Dawn Staruiala for your contributions! Plenty of excellent questions and good discussion as we get ready to move forward for a fair deal for our members.
Several locals took part in solidarity actions on the Third Anniversary of the Phoenix payroll system disaster on February 28th. Members held plant gates in frigid artic weather, conducted walk-outs, or wore black in the workplace to show support for the rally in Ottawa.
On March 20th I spoke at a rally in support of CUPE 1975 at the University of Saskatchewan. We will always stand with our brothers and sisters in the labour movement when employers try to take away pensions and the right to retire with dignity.
On Monday, March 25th we received very last minute word that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be in town for a Liberal fundraiser. We put together a small crew and headed out to the Inn at the Forks to greet him. He managed to slip past us, but we had good conversations with many attendees, including Liberal MPs.
As part of the MFL Executive, I attended a meeting in Winnipeg with the Prime Minister and all 7 Liberal MP’s from Winnipeg. I was able to convey the urgency of his government coming to the TB bargaining table with a true mandate in April. Following that, several members attended a townhall with the Prime Minister. Our members conveyed the same message and reminded him of his 2015 promises and also raised privatization and contracting out as a priority.
I was very fortunate to join our National President Chris Aylward and National Vice-President Magali Picard in Alberta as a part of the Leader’s Tour. We met with members from across the province in Calgary, in Edmonton, in Jasper, in Lethbridge and Red Deer and Coutts. We saw the dedication and commitment of our members and it was inspiring.
I was pleased to host a Treasury Board Bargaining Webinar with PSAC National VP Magali Picard on April 17th. We had Bargaining Team Member Arliss Chute Ibsen on as well. We took a lot of questions and were able to thanks members for stepping up with actions: lobbying MPs, holding sit-ins in their offices, and showing support for our teams at the bargaining tables.
Regina members braved the rain early in the morning April 17th to bring attention to Phoenix. There were encouraging honks of support from many commuters. The rally was attended by Casino Regina, several Regina USJE locals, and CEIU. We also had support from other unions and the Regina and District Labour Council.
Over 60 Members in Prince Albert held a morning rally Thursday, April 25th. We got good coverage from the Prince Albert Herald. I was able to attend an information session for members following the rally about Treasury Board Bargaining and other issues facing our members and also a membership BBQ at lunch to speak to members about bargaining.
With members from USJE, we visited MP Ralph Goodale’s office unannounced as he has refused to meet with constituents who are PSAC members. We are awaiting a response from his office for a meeting.
MP lobbying took centre stage over the month of April in the Prairies. Our staff did a great job of mobilizing members and helping to set up meetings. I was able to directly lobby Liberal MPs Terry Duguid, Doug Eyolfson and Dan Vandal in Winnipeg. Members also lobbied other area MPs in Winnipeg.
Sister Deb Kosteniuk and Brother Alec Goertzen met with Calgary Centre MP Kent Hehr and got him to write a letter to the Treasury Board Minister! Sister Kirsten Strachey also lobbied Conservative MP Blaine Calkins (Red Deer – Lacombe) and had a fruitful discussion. In Lethbridge, Sister Krysty Thomas met with Conservative MP Rachel Harder who also wrote to the Treasury Board Minister.
Members from USJE, AGR and UHEW attended Minister Jim Carr’s constituency office on March 28th. Nestor Galnaryk (SV Bargaining Team Member) spoke to the minister and relayed the frustration of our members with the speed of bargaining, lack of mandate and insulting proposals. No commitment was made but we got our message across.
On May Day Sister Deb Kosteniuk, PRC RWC Representative, Calgary RWC Chair and National HRC member, spoke on behalf of the PSAC about the challenges our members have faced during the current round of bargaining and the struggles members are still facing due to the disastrous Phoenix pay system. Sister Michelle Lang did the same in Regina. They both did our union proud!
Several locals – and more every day! – are joining the “Return to Sender” campaign – an action in the Prairies to send Justin Trudeau’s 2015 letter to public servants back to him. This is a great campaign and really seems to hit home with the membership.
The Calgary Regional Women’s Committee hosted a Bear Witness Day event at the Harry Hays building on May 10th. The Regional Women’s Committee explained Jordan’s Principle to everyone who came, including new Canadians and even some management.
As a rule, PSAC does not endorse political parties for election. But we do ask our members to keep in mind the values that matter to us as a union: strong support for public services, respect for the rights of workers and support for the human rights of everyone in our communities. That is why endorsed the “Next Alberta” campaign promoted by Alberta’s unions. We also sent out a mailer to all PSAC members in Alberta letting them know what was at stake in this election – thank you to all the members who helped pull that together! We also sponsored three events for labour union members, 1 each in Lethbridge, Calgary and Edmonton.
Jason Kenney is the new Premier of Alberta. We will be keeping a close on his government and – as ever – we will stand with the labour movement. The Alberta Federation of Labour recently held its 2019 Convention – PSAC’s VP’s for the next two-year term are Krysty Thomas (AGR Lethbridge) and Kirsten Strachey (UTE Red Deer).
In Manitoba, all eyes are on a possible early election call by Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government – this despite fixed election legislation that is supposed to give citizens a degree of certainty as to when they will be going to the polls. We are ready to stand up for the rights of our workers under provincial jurisdiction – and all workers – in Manitoba whenever the call is made.
In coordination with UVAE, we continue to lobby the federal Minister of Veterans Affairs to intervene in the healthcare bargaining unit restructure and to ensure that veterans have access for the specialized services of Deer Lodge Centre for years to come.
Thanks to the hard work and advocacy of the labour movement and other organizations, led by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, Saskatchewan will be offering paid leave to victims of domestic and sexual violence who require time off from work. Victims of domestic and sexual violence will now be able to take five paid days in addition to five unpaid days of leave; previously the law stated that they were entitled to able to take 10 unpaid days of leave. This is a real victory for the power of organizing and mobilization by the labour movement!
Winnipeg General Strike 100th Anniversary
2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike. This was a formative moment for the labour movement in Canada. 30,000 workers took to the streets to draw attention to the cruelty of their working conditions, chronic unemployment and the indifference of government to the plight of working people.
At the time of this meeting, these events will have passed, but they have not yet as the time of writing. PSAC is a sponsor of the Centennial Gala dinner on May 15th; we will also have a float in the parade on May 25th where we will be joined by National President, Chris Aylward, National Vice-President, Magali Picard and all 7 Regional Executive Vice-Presidents.
A tentative agreement has been reached at Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development in Winnipeg.
Bargaining continues at the Royal Canadian Mint for both the Winnipeg and Ottawa locations. The next bargaining meeting will be held from July 8 to 12 in Winnipeg.
Bargaining continues for Winnipeg Airport Firefighters. Next dates are May 29 – 31.
Bargaining continues at the Regina Airport. The employer is looking for monetary concessions but the membership is strongly united against any concessions. Next dates May 14-16.
Workers at Bouygues Energies and Services Canada Ltd. at the Winnipeg Airport ratified their first tentative agreement in February.
After more than two years of negotiations, Research Assistants and Research Associates who are members of PSAC Local 55600 at the University of Winnipeg ratified their first collective agreement in February.
Post-Doctoral Fellows at the University of Saskatchewan were awarded a first contract by through arbitration in late January.
The CA for All National Healing Hospital in Fort Qu’Appelle, SK expired March 31, 2017. Bargaining has not yet started as a result of the provincial government’s wage mandate of a 3.5% wage cut. We are in regular contact with other healthcare unions in Sask.
Bargaining continues at DCL 40005 Casino Regina, a Crown Corporation of the Prov. of Sask. While the Minister of Labour indicated in October that the mandated wage cut of 3.5% is off the table, the employer has not confirmed such with our negotiator. Bargaining last week of February resulted in a wage offer of 0, 0, 0.5 and 1%. The bargaining team rejected the offer and has applied for conciliation.
With the announcement of the sale of the Port of Churchill and the Churchill Marine Tank Farm from OmniTrax to the Arctic Gateway Group, we are requested to resume negotiations for the Port of Churchill which expired Dec. 31, 2015. We have also served notice to bargain for the Churchill Marine Tank Farm which expired Dec. 23, 2018. We are awaiting dates from the employer.
Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President