Report of the Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies to the Prairie Region Council submitted for the September 22, 2014 meeting. This report covers the period from the last PRC meeting.
PSAC Prairies REVP
Report to Prairie Region Council, September 2014
I am proud to be submitting my first report as your elected Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region. I look forward to working together with each and every one of you over the next three years.
I also want to congratulate all of the PRC Representatives and welcome everyone to the Council. For those who have served on the Council previously, thank you for your continued service and dedication to the membership. For those who are new to the Council, please know that you can contact my office anytime for help or assistance in carrying out your duties as PRC Representative.
As promised during my election campaign, I commit to ensuring continued accountability of members’ dues, expanded opportunities for members to grow within the union, and representation and support of all members whether component or DCL. I know that, together, we can make this happen.
I’d also like to congratulate all of the newly elected component national officers. Since our regional convention, eight components have held their own conventions. We were happy to be the host region for the National Health Union convention in Edmonton and Agriculture Union convention in Winnipeg. All of the new component national officers from the Prairies have been posted on our website.
UNION PRIDE, SASKATOON WIDE
The 6th Triennial Prairie Region Convention was a complete success and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. More than 320 people attended, including 268 delegates, 32 observers, 11 NBoD and 11 guests.
We asked attendees for their feedback through an online survey and received 109 responses (a 33 per cent participation rate). The feedback provided will help us to make improvements for our next regional convention, to be held in Alberta in 2017.
Most of the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with 25 per cent of respondents saying the Prairies Convention exceeded their expectations and 64 per cent saying it met their expectations. However, there are some changes to be made. For example, of the respondents that identified as a new delegate, only half attended the first-time delegates orientation. This suggests we need to do more work around promoting this beneficial session.
The Prairies Boutique was a new addition to this year’s convention and about 40 per cent of respondents made a purchase from the boutique. In total, we had $2,500 worth of sales over the weekend. That money went back into the regional budget from which the promotional items were initially purchased. Feedback from the survey will help us improve this for next time, including having the capability to process debit and credit cards, listing items on the website or in the guide for preview and promotion, and offering sales of items year-round.
It comes as no surprise that 50 per cent of respondents identified resolutions debate as their favourite part of convention. Some comments were that we didn’t have enough time for resolutions and that the speeches were too long. However, delegates were able to vote on all resolutions with concurrence recommendations from convention committees, with the exception of four concurrence resolutions in the general resolutions package.The PRC has the authority to debate and vote on those resolutions at our first meeting. So we really were able to get a lot of business done in a short amount of time.
The majority of the criticism was about the logistics of having delegates spread out at three different hotels and a separate location for convention venue. Some respondents felt it wasn’t accessible because it was too far to be walking back and forth several times each day. Others said it was difficult to network and attend hospitality suites when delegates were spread out. This will certainly pose a challenge for our next convention.
The obligation to make every effort to ensure that the regional convention rotates through the three provinces of the Prairie Region has always been past practice. However, it has now been entrenched in the By-Laws with the passing of resolution BL-015. There is no location in the Prairies that is big enough to host our convention and all attendees in one venue, other than The Fairmont Winnipeg. This is something we will have to take into consideration when planning our next convention.
As you know, delegates stood together in solidarity to denounce public service cuts by proudly holding up signs that state “Standing Together for Public Services / Standing Together for Fairness”. An album of photos from this action has been posted to the PSAC Prairies Facebook page. I encourage you to request signs from your regional office to use in your locals and be sure to share the photos with us.
STANDING TOGETHER FOR SICK LEAVE
From July 8-10, PSAC’s bargaining teams met in Ottawa to start negotiations with Treasury Board. They will meet with the employer again from September 9-11. One of the biggest issues of concern for members this round is protecting sick leave.
The PBO released a new report concluding that it costs almost nothing extra to pay sick leave to federal civil servants. This is because most departments don’t have policies in place to backfill for sick leave. That means most employees who call in sick are not replaced, resulting in no incremental cost to departments.
Many PSAC members have taken action by writing letters to editors and to their MPs. When Yvonne Hein, PSAC/Agriculture Union member in Winnipeg, heard about Tony Clement’s plan to take away accumulated sick leave benefits from federal public service workers, she wrote a letter to Shelley Glover, MP for Saint Boniface. She has yet to receive a response. Her letter is published on the PSAC Prairies website, along with my letter to the editor that was published in the Winnipeg Sun on July 15, criticizing the op-ed (“Sick of union entitlement”) that called the attacks on PSAC members’ sick leave “common sense”.
On April 30, we hosted a live and interactive telephone town hall. Nearly 4,000 members throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba participated in the one-hour call to discuss important information about the attack on sick leave. We also had the capability to ask thousands of members on the call poll questions and receive instant feedback. When we asked participants how much sick leave they take in an average year, 51 per cent answered between 4-8 days, with another 33 per cent indicating between 0-3 days. Subsequently, when we asked participants if they’d ever worked while sick, 65 per cent answered they’ve come to work sick because of workload pressures, while another 20 per cent answered they’ve come to work sick because of workload pressures and because they’ve ran out of sick leave.
Multi-local meetings were held in Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Regina, Brandon, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, CFB Suffield, and Lethbridge to discuss our plan for dealing with attacks from this government. The meetings were a huge success, with hundreds of members attending to hear updates from leadership and bargaining team members. We also held two webinars following Prairies Convention for those who weren’t able to make a meeting in person. With so much at stake, it’s crucial that members get informed and get involved in the early stages of bargaining and not just in the event negotiations come to an impasse.
More members have been engaged with the Prairies website than ever before. For January to June of 2014 our website received 80,216 page views from 15,444 different visitors, a 39 per cent and 33 per cent increase respectively over the same period the year before. Additionally, the bounce rate––the percentage of single-page visits or people who leave after viewing only one page––decreased by 10 per cent. The most viewed topics continue to be education and bargaining, and, during this period, regional convention information.
Views on videos from the award-winning PSAC Prairies Video Project have reached over 3,000 collectively on the PSAC Prairies YouTube channel. While this isn’t a huge number, the project was never designed for mass public consumption. The stories our members share in these videos are very personal and their situations are unique. The videos were produced to be an archival of our history and an educational tool for members to learn about our struggles and achievements. The clips we screened at convention were a huge hit among delegates, and the majority of respondents on our post-convention survey requested a copy of the videos for their local. We’re looking into this, as well as other options to help us spread the word and promote the project among members.
Additionally, PSAC headquarters has released several useful videos over the past few months including: “PSAC members take a stand against cuts to public services”, “Employment Insurance in Canada: Hitting Rock Bottom”, “Standing together for bargaining, standing together for public services”. You can view these videos on PSAC’s YouTube channel.
BARGAINING & ORGANIZING
Several regional bargaining units have ratified their new collective agreements recently, including All Nations’ Healing Hospital Inc. (Fort Qu’appelle) on May 29 and Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp. (Winnipeg) on June 14. Following a hearing in July, the Manitoba Labour Board imposed a first collective agreement for employees of the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resources Development (Winnipeg) for a one-year term.
Earlier this year, members employed by Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Winnipeg) ratified their collective agreement on January 31, Deer Lodge Centre Inc. (Winnipeg) ratified on February 12, Pro-Tec Fire Services of Canada (Saskatoon Airport) ratified on March 31 and Regina Airport Authority ratified on April 23.
The collective agreement for employees of the Royal Canadian Mint (Winnipeg & Ottawa) expired December 31, 2013. We are exchanging proposals with the employer September 10 and 11. Additionally, we have a newly organized unit with 35 members who perform security services at the Winnipeg facility. Notice to bargain has been issued and bargaining of the first collective agreement will begin the first week of December. We are also meeting this month for bargaining with Sodexo Canada Ltd (Moose Jaw).
The input call and notice to bargain has been issued for Saskatoon Airport Authority, which expired June 30, 2014. Input calls will be issued shortly for Edmonton Airport firefighters and captains, as well as security guards at Winnipeg Airport, both of which expire at the end of 2014.
We have a new organizer in the Prairies working out of the Saskatoon Regional Office. Please join me in welcoming Sister Kathryn McDonald to the Prairies. She will be working on the ground in Saskatoon on some exciting new prospects for at least the next six months. As always, if you have any leads or information that could be useful in organizing new units in the Prairies, please call Sister McDonald at the Saskatoon RO.
HEALTH & SAFETY TOUR
This fall, Clint Wirth, Regional Representative – Health and Safety, will undertake a tour across the Prairies to meet with locals and host evening education and information sessions. Brother Wirth has prioritized his site visits based on discussions with regional staff and requests from locals who have specific workplace health and safety concerns or committees who are in need of support, information or assistance.
The evening sessions will be approximately two hours and will be a review of the changes that Bill C-4 has brought to health and safety, a discussion of PSAC’s health and safety initiatives and an open forum members to discuss their health and safety needs.
Brother Wirth will be reaching out to RVP’s responsible for the locals he is visiting to invite them to attend. He will also work with the PRC Health & Safety Committee to ensure the involvement of the Committee. We will keep all PRC Reps informed of evening sessions, likely to be held in the various regional offices. You are encouraged to attend the evening session in your area if you are available.
The new Union Development Program (UDP) has launched and we are accepting applications until October 3. UDP was previously postponed for 2014 due to the attack on unions, specifically Bill C-4, and the membership and staff resources required to fight back. The program will run from January to September, with in-person sessions in Winnipeg (March), Ottawa (May), and Edmonton (September). We previously received 30 applications for the postponed UDP. Those applications will be reconsidered with any new applications received for the six Prairies spots.
In addition to our PRC meeting, we’re hosting the Prairies Summit with representatives from the Prairie Region Council, Component National Officers, and Regional Committees and Area Councils. Additionally, we’re hosting the Prairies Young Workers Conference and Prairies Separate Employers Conference.
It will certainly be a very busy time for everyone, but I look forward to the discussions that will be had and connections that will be made.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies