CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES B.C. DIVISION WINTER 2013
O’NEILL RETIRES PAGE 5
TAKING ON THE PRIVATEERS
Renewing our fight to keep public services public
LOCAL ECONOMY SUMMIT
leading us barry o’neill
“We understand the economy as well as any business group, and we’re just as committed to seeing businesses and entrepreneurs do well.”
Much to celebrate in our golden year appy new year, to all 85,000 of our members in B.C. I hope you were able to spend time resting and relaxing with your families and friends over the holiday season. This year promises to be yet another busy one for CUPE BC, with our Local Economy Summit in February, our 50th Anniversary Convention in April, and of course a crucial provincial election in May that will hopefully lead to a more progressive government that puts working people and their families ahead of the wealthy and big corporations. In addition to this coming Convention marking our 50th anniversary as a union, it will also be my last as president. In December I announced to the CUPE BC executive board my intention to retire after 16 years as president (see p. 5). I’ll have more to say about my time as president in the next issue of the Public Employee, and of course at Convention itself, but for now there is still much work to do leading up to the event. First up is our Local Economy Summit in February. The Summit represents the latest chapter of our Ten Percent Shift campaign, and will bring together Local First activists and advocates from across B.C., Canada and North America to work together to develop solutions for local economies. Hosted and moderated by Vancouver Sun political columnist Vaughn Palmer, the Summit will feature keynote speeches by well known author, economist and lawyer Michael Shuman and Toronto Star columnist and author Linda McQuaig. Both Michael and Linda have spoken to CUPE BC conventions in the past, and I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing their thoughts on how communities can regain control of their economic futures. The Summit will lead into the next phase of the Shift campaign, as we add a new focus on local government
THE PU B L IC EM PLOYEE
SAME PAGE Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, seen here with Barry O'Neill at the BC Federation of Labour convention, supports "local first" programs like the Ten Percent Shift.
procurement. “Procurement” is one of those terms that sounds like it was invented to make something seem more complicated or interesting than it really is. Simply put, procurement is the way governments purchase equipment and supplies. One of the biggest challenges facing local governments, in particular, is trade agreements that local elected officials have no ability to influence or change and which prevent them from using their purchasing power to support local businesses and entrepreneurs. The work we’ve done on the Shift so far is doing great things for our organization – as well as giving elected officials and Local First activists research and information to help them improve local economies. We’re demonstrating on the ground that CUPE members care about their communities and want to work to improve them. It’s showing that we understand the economy as well as any business group and that we’re just as committed to seeing businesses and entrepreneurs do well. After all, when local economies thrive, so do communities – and that benefits us all. As I said, I’ll have more to say about my time as president of CUPE BC in the spring. But for now, I will just say thank you to each and every one of you for the privilege of having served you and our great union since 1997. Barry O’Neill is president of CUPE BC.
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MO R E O NL I NE
CUPE CUP E ac actt io ion n members on the front line
MUNICIPAL PENSIONS: GOOD FOR YOU AND B.C. If you’re one of the 274,000 members of the Municipal Pension Plan (MPP), you can feel secure about the future – both for your family and your local economy. A good portion of the MPP’s $28 billion in assets rest right here in B.C., creating returns for members while providing vital capital for local business expansion, improved infrastructure, and job creation. The Plan pays out about $1 billion in pensions every year. That’s money spent in B.C. businesses, as retirees support local jobs with each purchase. Ongoing work to strengthen the MPP’s sustainability will provide economic benefits for B.C. while ensuring that future retirees continue to be protected. More info: www.mpp.pensionsbc.ca
National bargaining conference in February Bargaining is the most important thing we do – and it’s evolving. CUPE National’s bargaining conference (February 5-8, in Ottawa) will help activists better understand the current climate and equip them with the best strategies and tools to help them make gains at the table. More info: cupe.ca/bargaining/ conference
TWELVE-YEAR WAIT A united front from all CUPE members, such as these community social services workers who posed with Barry O’Neill at a BC Fed rally on Nov. 28, will be vital to electing a progressive government in May.
Countdown begins for May 14 vote B U R N A B Y | With 85 constituencies
throughout the province, CUPE activists have been deployed in each region to help mobilise the union’s 85,000 members well in advance of a May 14 election that could chart a new course for B.C. Before the holidays, CUPE zone coordinators met for two day-long training sessions on getting out the vote and motivating members. In the coming months, coordinators will meet with local executives, attend membership meetings, connect candidates with locals, secure phone banks, and engage in member-to-member calling.
“Talking to members directly is by far the most effective way of getting out the vote,” says CUPE’s political action coordinator Rachel Champagne, adding that member involvement will be critical to the election outcome. “Whether on the phone or the doorstep, on Twitter or Facebook, or in the campaign offices of local candidates,” says Champagne, “CUPE members can make the difference in what could prove to be a historic campaign for working people in B.C.” To get involved, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CSS workers stage multi-union actions S U R R E Y | B.C.’s 15,000 unionized
workers in the community social services sector held a series of rotating job actions throughout the province from October through December in a bid to reach a fair deal after a dozen years of BC Liberal cutbacks, closures, and wage stagnation. Beginning on October 16, rotating
strike actions were held at agencies around B.C, including in Vancouver, Kamloops, Prince George, Victoria, Nelson, Vernon, and Williams Lake. The actions included pickets at the offices of two B.C. cabinet ministers, Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux and Minister of Social Development Moira Stilwell.
SOLIDARITY SISTERS CUPE 1936 members who work for Battered Women’s Support Services joined Aboriginal Services workers from the BCGEU in a picket of the latter’s employer on Dec. 4. WINTER 2013
CUPE CUP E ac actt io ion n
VOICES “We have not-for-profits who can’t afford milk, who can’t afford to help the people who need it the most, but we can give IPG [Initiatives Prince George] $1 million?” CUPE 1048 president Janet Bigelow, at a public meeting, notes that IPG is not subject to the same scrutiny as other organizations in the City’s core services review. Prince George Free Press, Thursday, November 15, 2012.
“KPMG (which is involved in core service reviews in Prince George and Vernon) is a sponsor member of the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships. I find it hard to believe that this company would not have a bias for privatization.” Acting CUPE 608 president Brian Hillson, in a letter to the editor, debunks the City of Keromeos’s contention that its core services review is a “neutral, third-party review.” Keremeos Review, Tuesday, November 6, 2012.
“We are disappointed you would use the CUPE wage agreement as an example as to why a tax increase is needed when it’s apparent a tax increase is necessary to maintain and fund a number of district services.” CUPE 1267 president and district employee Donna Lee Lakes suggests that Mission council clarify its position on the proposed budget. Mission City Record, Tuesday, November 6, 2012.
“When you see these folks at work or at play or volunteering, please thank them for their contributions that help to enrich our community.” CUPE 118 and 727 member Leslie Walerius, in the “View from Labour” column, after describing some of the many faces of Labour in the Alberni Valley. Alberni Valley Times, Friday, November 2, 2012.
“We’ll have a little time to catch our breath, and then we’re back at the (bargaining) table in a year and a half.” CUPE 917 president Rob Park, commenting on his UVic local’s ratification of a retroactive, four-year contract that will bring two-percent increases per year over the contract’s final two years. Saanich News, Tuesday, November 6, 2012.
www.cupe.bc.ca + News + Commentary + Members’ voices
MO RE ON L I N E
THE PU B L IC EM PLOYEE
STANDING STRONG Community Health workers in the Lower Mainland took action in November to fight for a fair and reasonable collective agreement. Their bargaining efforts over ten months were often frustrating, given the government’s lack of willingness to show up at the table. Here, CUPE 15 members Michelle Loke, Hilda Poon and Krystal Hall picket their jobsite at the Robert Lee Lily Family Community Health Centre.
Library workers flock to CUPE Library workers across B.C. continue to recognize CUPE as the union of choice for their sector. Since the summer, five branches of the Okanagan Regional Library (ORL) have joined CUPE 1123. The Local now covers 21 branches of the ORL, bringing the total number of Okanagan library workers represented by CUPE to more than 175. CUPE 1123 president Rose Jurkic says that after a tough round of negotiations in 2012 – including several weeks of job action – the arrival of newly-certified workers from Princeton, Oliver, Keremeos, Kaleden and Hedley reflects CUPE 1123’s strong commitment to members. “The message we keep hearing from new members is that they believe that joining CUPE gives them a stronger voice and an avenue to have their concerns represented in a fair and equitable manner,” says Jurkic. “They saw how united CUPE 1123 was throughout our labour dispute and saw that we really had our members’ best interest at heart. It was that solidarity that encouraged non-unionized branches to join CUPE.” Library workers in Invermere also joined CUPE after a unanimous vote in November, and are now a new Local, CUPE 5139. Nicole Pawlak, a community librarian and one of five front-line workers at Invermere Public Library, says the decision to join CUPE was an easy one. “By becoming part of CUPE we will now have access to a wide array of information, education tools and resources,” said Pawlak. “We are confident that CUPE will be able to help us negotiate a fair collective agreement which both reflects the needs of the staff and keeps the best of interest of the library and its patrons in mind.” At press time, Osoyoos library workers had just voted in favour of joining CUPE.
CUPE CUP E ac actt io ion n members on the front line Democracy prevails in Cowichan Valley DUNC AN | CUPE’s efforts and commu-
FAREWELL, BROTHER! CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill, with members of the executive board and executive assistant Sharon Prescott, far left, shortly after O’Neill announced his retirement on Dec. 6.
O’Neill announces retirement Longest serving president to step down at Convention BU R NABY | After sixteen years in office,
CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill announced at the union’s December executive board meeting that he will not be seeking re-election at the union’s 50th anniversary convention in April. “On behalf of all 85,000 CUPE members in B.C., I want to thank Barry for his years of service and dedication, both to our union and to the principles and traditions of the trade union movement,” said CUPE BC secretary-treasurer Mark Hancock. “He truly will go
down in history as a giant of the labour movement.” O’Neill was first elected president in 1997. He was re-elected seven times to two-year terms, making him by far the longest-serving president in CUPE BC history. Prior to 1997, he served several terms as a vice president and then as general vice president. The next president will be elected by delegates to CUPE BC’s 50th Anniversary Convention in Victoria (April 10-13). The next issue of Public Employee will feature a retrospective of O’Neill’s tenure as president.
Core services review gets failing grade CUPE, local residents cry foul on KPMG conclusions P R INC E G E OR G E | It took a budget of
$350,000 and more than six months for KPMG to conduct the City’s core services review, and its conclusions were predictably clear: slash services, increase user fees, sell off city assets, and hire third party operators to run city-owned facilities.
But when the document was released in early November with no plan for public consultation, the “I Heart PG” campaign gave Prince George residents an opportunity to comment on the much-anticipated review. CUPE 1048 president Janet Bigelow says the “community conversation” was a chance for residents to have a say on the future of their community.
nity pressure in Cowichan Valley School District 79 have led to victory – if somewhat delayed – for the democratic process. The provincial government quietly announced in the fall that a by-election for the district board of directors will be held, although not until November 2013. The BC Liberals fired the elected board in June 2012 and installed a trustee after the board presented a $3.8-million, needs-based budget instead of cutting more services to children for a ‘balanced’ budget. CUPE 606 backed the board and called on the province to restore funding.
AT THE READY CUPE 4500 transit supervisors Dwayne Nelson and Surinder Sahdra pose for their Local’s fall ad campaign to raise awareness about the impact of job losses. Coast Mountain has eliminated 17 transit and maintenance supervisor positions so far.
“Nearly 300 people came to this event, which shows that Prince George residents really care about their community,” notes Bigelow. Bigelow Now that the review is complete, Bigelow says that Council will review the “opportunities” and make some decisions in time to complete the 2013 budget. WINTER 2013
CUPE CUP E ac actt io ion n
Funding cuts put women at risk Unique program offers refuge from violence VANC OUVER | One of the most innovative and successful programs for vulnerable
VITAL SERVICE CUPE 1004 member Lindsay Thompson says cuts to the Rainier program further victimize vulnerable women.
and drug-addicted women in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) had its funding cut just before Christmas – an extremely difficult time of year for women who rely on its unique services. The December 3 cuts to the Rainier program came despite recent attention towards women in the sex trade who are at risk of extreme violence, a heavily publicized missing women’s inquiry, and an obvious need for more detox and treatment services in the DTES. The program assists these vulnerable women, offering one of the city’s few culturally appropriate and accepting places of refuge. “You’re very involved at a point in the women’s lives when they want to make big changes,” says Lindsay Thompson, a mental health worker and CUPE 1004 member, describing the Rainier’s special working environment. “The support Rainier staff provides is tailored to the unique needs of the women they serve. It’s about understanding where women come from and walking with them every step of the way.” Eight CUPE mental health and addiction worker positions were lost as a result of Vancouver Coastal Health funding cuts, eliminating treatment and support services for at least 40 women who rely on them. “In spite of the positive spin that VCH is putting on it, the truth is, there is nothing like the Rainier anywhere else for these women, and they will suffer,” says Thompson. Visit www.rainierhotel.ca and write a letter to support this vital service.
POST SECONDARY BARGAINING
Universities, colleges reach deals United job action by CUPE’s 12,000 university support and teaching staff set the tone for 2012 bargaining, with the universities coordinated bargaining committee meeting regularly over the summer and fall to check in and set demands. At press time, all but one had settled before the holidays with four-year, noconcessions deals with 0-0-2-2 per cent. Each contract includes local issues and language improvements. The settlements came after provincewide job action in the form of a one-day strike. Ongoing actions kept the pressure up. The exception was CUPE 3338 at SFU, which at press time was still waiting for the employer to bargain in good faith for a settlement.
THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEE
In the colleges sector, a three-day marathon session ended more than two and a half years of fruitless bargaining for CUPE college support workers in B.C. On November 30, CUPE’s colleges bargaining committee reached a tentative framework agreement with the BC Post Secondary Employers’ Association on a four-year, no concessions deal in line with settlements in the universities sector. At press time, the framework had gone back for discussions at the local level to College of the Rockies (CUPE 2773), College of New Caledonia (Cupe 4951), Camosun (CUPE 2081), North Island College (CUPE 3479) and Vancouver Island University (CUPE 1858).
FIGHT FOR FAIRNESS Simon Fraser University spent much of 2012 unwilling to bargain with CUPE 3338.
CUPE colleges coordinator Ian McLean credited “solidarity and our coordinated job actions targeting government – not students or employers” for the deal.
CUPE CUP E
MOVING THE GOAL POSTS ON WAGE INCREASES The BC Liberals’ ‘cooperative gains’ mandate was nothing of the kind Tying the employers’ hands At table after table, the negotiations ground to a halt when we thought we student services were close to a deal. Any deal had to worker Jackie Eddy be approved by the government and encourages fellow it seemed like PSEC hid behind the local members during Ministry of Advanced Education, which a rally for college hid behind PSEC – while the universisupport workers on ties and the union watched from the Nov. 28. sidelines. The frustration was palpable. “We have been trying to bargain with these universities for more than two years,” said CUPE’s universities coordinated You might think the BC Liberals’ Net Zero Mandate in 2010/11 bargaining committee co-chair Lois barring public sector workers from wage increases would be a Rugg. “They have the money, they have hard act to follow. But follow it they did with the ironically labeled the mandate, so let’s get to the table and make a deal!” The trouble was that the Cooperative Gains Mandate for 2012. universities didn’t have the authority to Universities and colleges had to pro- do so. The new mandate entrenched the government’s ability to interfere in duce detailed ‘savings plans’ for the “We’ve been met with huge frustrafree collective bargaining with layers government’s Public Sector Employers’ tion because our employees at the uniof non-cooperation and little in the Council (PSEC), which would then be versities can’t sit down and negotiate a way of gains. In a nutshell, the man- approved and returned or rejected by fair and respectful agreement with the date “allowed” public sector employers Victoria. various universities – the province is But CUPE had trouble finding out tying their hands”, explained CUPE 116 to negotiate “modest wage increases made possible by productivity increases what had become of those savings president Colleen Garbe. within existing budgets,” but added that plans. At times, we were told they Eventually CUPE 2950 at UBC got a “the Province will not provide additional had been rejected. deal, and the rest – funding for increases to compensation At times, we were At table after table, the except for SFU – subtold the institutions negotiations ground to a sequently reached negotiated in collective bargaining.” For workers long overdue for a wage were having a hard agreements. But that halt when we thought we hike and determined to hold the line at time finding any didn’t exactly pave ‘savings’ in their were close to a deal. no concessions, this was a shaky start. the way for CUPE already maxed-out colleagues at collegFunding cuts continue budgets. Eventually, we were told the es. Support workers at B.C. colleges Bargaining in the universities sector plans had all been submitted in April. had to go through the same charade, for 2012 painted a disturbing picture of Then we waited, along with the uni- getting agreement and support from just how intrusive the mandate could versities, for the government stamps of their institute employers but not a deal. be. The Province washed its hands of approval. And we waited. We ended up The government initially offered half additional post secondary funding on waiting until September. the wage increase universities got – an top of a 2.2-per-cent cut in the Spring The next hurdle came once we were offer CUPE colleges workers answered 2012 budget and a declared goal of slic- actually in talks, only to find that many with job action until the government ing another $70 million off the sector. of the employers didn’t have a mandate, agreed to a provincial framework agreeAdd to that a new set of hoops for post under the ‘Mandate,’ to sign a deal. ment in line with the earlier deals. secondary institutions to jump through. Free to bargain but not to settle. RALLYING FOR A DEAL CUPE 2081
linking labour robin jones
“In order to restore free collective bargaining in B.C. and end the growing interference from government, the BC Liberals must be defeated.”
Government the main problem – not employers ith a provincial tentative Memorandum of Agreement finally wrangled in B.C.’s colleges sector, most of CUPE’s public sector negotiations for this round are now settled. The universities sector led the way with all the campuses (except for SFU and CUPE 3338) reaching similar deals that have now been ratified. Community social services faces an uphill struggle, as does community health, and K-12 coordinated bargaining has only just gotten underway at the provincial level. We have made some modest gains, but make no mistake: it has been and remains a challenging bargaining climate for CUPE members in all sectors. Time after time, we have found ourselves close to a deal with the employer only to find it’s not the employer we have to deal with – it’s an employers’ council that also needs approval from the province.
In the post secondary education sector, it turns out that our relationships with the institutions are generally pretty good right now. We wanted to negotiate a fair and reasonable deal and they wanted to sign one with us. But we still ended up needing concerted job action and some locals are still on strike. It is quite evident that, in order to restore free collective bargaining in B.C. and end the growing interference from government, the BC Liberals must be defeated in the upcoming election. But government interference in collective bargaining and union affairs is not limited to B.C. We are seeing increasingly repressive legislation across Canada. You only have to look at what the new Conservative majority did to postal workers in 2011 to understand what we’re up against. First the workers were locked out – then legislation forced an end to free collective bargaining and imposed wages that were less than those the employer had already tabled! Now the Harper government has passed Bill C377, which will 8
THE PU B L IC EM PLOYEE
STAYING ON MESSAGE CUPE’s staff bargaining representatives, such as universities coordinator Tracey Mathieson, were steadfast in resisting the provincial government’s intransigence.
require unions to make public the details of money and time spent on lobbying or political action work. The bill would allow employers and anti-union groups, at taxpayer and union expense, to get detailed information about a union’s spending and priorities with the goal of weakening union action. The growing intrusion of government in collective bargaining is but one of the topics to be addressed at the CUPE National bargaining conference in Ottawa this February. Locals are encouraged to attend this important conference. In B.C., there are many lessons to be learned from our bargaining in the past year. While we are very good at convening meetings and forming bargaining councils under the flags of No One Gets Left Behind and No Concessions, we can sometimes struggle to follow through on those commitments when push comes to sign. Although limited to a very small number, concessions/ mining of collective agreements still occurs. If we are to improve our settlements in the coming years, we will have to take a hard look at the bargaining experiences and choices made during this round. To that end, I will be asking selected staff and Local presidents to meet in the new year to establish a working group that will review and make recommendations from our past bargaining table issues, strategies and results as we move into 2013/2014 bargaining. Robin Jones is director for CUPE’s British Columbia region.
www.cupe.bc.ca + News + Commentary + Leaders’ voices MO R E O NL I NE
CUPE CUP E
focus local first
LOCAL ECONOMY SUMMIT
Ten Percent Shift takes big next step BU R NABY | What do you do when a campaign becomes “too”
successful? In the case of CUPE BC’s Ten Percent Shift, which has grown by leaps and bounds since its launch last year, the next logical step is to broaden the campaign’s appeal with a major event that advances the cause by drawing some high-profile supporters. CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill has delivered presentations on the Shift in dozens of communities across B.C., as well as in other provinces. Not only have thousands of British Columbians taken the Ten Percent Shift pledge to shift ten per cent of their household spending to local first, but other CUPE divisions have also endorsed the campaign. CUPE Nova Scotia has even launched its own version of the Shift – featuring the same logo but adding a Maritime tartan!
Crossing the political divide
DOLLARS AND SENSE Barry O’Neill’s Shift presentations have resonated with business and union audiences alike.
In 2012, the Shift campaign visited dozens of communities, with O’Neill delivering the presentation to Chambers, CUPE Local meetings, public town halls and service clubs. “We get invitations from communities all over the province,” says O’Neill. “And we try to get to as many as possible. But it’s gotten to the point where demand for a presentation is outstripping our ability to meet it. That’s a pretty nice problem to have, but it’s still a problem.”
Even organizations that might not normally choose to associate with labour unions in general – and CUPE BC in particular – are partnering with us to promote and support the Shift campaign. When you see an op-ed column in the Vancouver Sun co-written by O’Neill and the Canadian Federation of Big names for a big issue Independent Businesses, you know a nerve’s been hit. And One of the solutions to that “problem” is to bring community when chambers of commerce all over B.C. invite the leader leaders and elected officials together for a more in-depth look of the largest union in the province to speak to their memat the issues and challenges facing local economies. bers about the economy, you can tell that something is, er, That’s the rationale behind the Shift’s Local Economy shifting. Summit, coming to Vancouver this winter. The two-day event “There’s been a big change I’ve started noticing since (February 13-14), hosted by Sun columnist we began the Shift,” says O’Neill. “Not only are “There is just a massive hunger Vaughn Palmer and featuring guest speakers such as Linda McQuaig and Michael Shuman, more chamber and busi- out there for a local first is intended to develop new ideas and solutions ness people coming out approach to economic issues.” for local economies by bringing together local and engaging in discusfirst activists and advocates from across B.C., sion about the Shift, but Canada and North America. more and more so-called ‘average’ folks are coming out and “We’re really excited about the Summit. It’s really going to talking about why local economies are so important, and why take the Shift to the next level, where communities can sit they’re facing so many challenges. down with a wide range of residents and experts, and take “I think some business folks who aren’t used to dealing a hard look at their local economy,” says O’Neill. “There is with unions are pleasantly surprised to see how much work just a massive hunger out there for a local first approach to we’re doing to support local economies. We started the Shift economic issues. The Summit will create even more ambascampaign because our members told us they want to build sadors for stronger local economies. We’ve learned that if stronger communities – and growing the local economy is we work together on these issues, and try new ideas, we’ll the best way to do that. And business people can see the all accomplish a whole lot more than if we continue to work value in having 85,000 CUPE members who are also local separately.” first advocates around the province.” WINTER 2013
TAKING ON THE
PRIVATEERS Renewing our fight to keep public services public rom core service reviews in the municipal sector to shared services in education and the contracting out of health services, CUPE members in B.C. have faced a seemingly endless battle on the privatization front. But time and again, in every sector, we have fought to keep public services public. And that “positively public” message is getting through to the average citizen: clearly, our communities are not for sale. “We tell our children that they have the key to the future,” CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill told delegates at CUPE BC’s 2012 anti-privatization conference, “but if local governments continue to enter into these long term-agreements with the private sector, our children and grandchildren won’t have the ability to change any of the infrastructure where they live.”
ON THE COVER A 2011 campaign led by CUPE activists helped defeat a private water initiative — and a sitting mayor — in Abbotsford.
egates took away a greater sense of awareness about public services both in B.C. and across the country. “Fighting privatization is one of the most important things we can do as CUPE, both for our Carroll members and for our communities,” says McQueen. “We have to continue to carry out that fight in our communities and to raise awareness so that public services remain public.”
Winning hearts and minds
Zoe Magnus, CUPE’s anti-privatization coordinator for B.C., says that the key to CUPE’s effective push-back against privatization has been members’ willingness to form networks and engage Sharing strategies of resistance with the public on the issues. At the November conference, Toronto city council“Members across the province continue to build lor Shelley Carroll discussed the recent core service relationships with community allies, labour allies review (CSR) in her jurisdiction and Mayor Rob and elected officials, to educate them on the Ford’s apparent desire to “privatize anything that importance of keeping public services public,” moves.” Carroll described the CSR as a way to “elimi- she says. nate as many positions as Perhaps the biggest sucyou can and contract ser- “Cost savings from contracted cess we have seen in B.C. with vices,” a strategy that has regard to privatization is the out services almost always echoes in similar reviews Abbotsford Water Watch camdisappear and sometimes the conducted in B.C. paign, which opposed a 30-year Carroll told delegates water treatment P3 deal. In cost even increases.” that cost savings from a referendum vote during the contracted out services almost always disappear and 2011 municipal elections, Abbotsford residents sometimes the cost for the services even increases. voted 76 per cent against a private water treatment And she reminded them that, since private busi- plant and voted out their incumbent mayor, who nesses must make a profit each year, they often have tried to force his pet project on the community. to reduce the quality of service just to maintain the More recently in Prince George, where a core profit margin. service review was conducted by KPMG (see p. Conference co-chair Cindy McQueen, a CUPE 5), the local council decided to keep parking and BC general vice-president and member of CUPE bylaw enforcement public. A big win, considering National’s privatization committee, said that del- that many ‘opportunities’ suggested contracting out or privatizing services.
10 THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEE
GETTING INFORMED Delegates to CUPE’s anti-privatization conference learned how to spot the signs of encroaching privatization.
Facing the challenges However, CUPE members continue to face privatization challenges. Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) pose a growing threat to CUPE members across the county. The loss of control of public assets, the loss of accountability and higher long-term costs are some of the major concerns surrounding P3 projects. Core service reviews (CSRs) are becoming a big trend in the municipal sector. Marketed as “neutral” third party reviews, CSRs are nothing more than a cost-cutting exercise. These reviews look only at dollars and cents and don’t consider the community’s vision for the future. CSRs promote “opportunities” which often translate into decreased service levels, increased user fees, sold-off City assets and third party-operated municipal facilities. Prince George, Vernon, Victoria, Powell River, Mission, Oliver, Keremeos and Penticton have already conducted CSRs or have reviews currently underway. In the education sectors, the province launched two education “shared services” studies this year – one aimed at K-12 and one at post secondary. Neither has been enacted, but both signal the need for vigilance. Asked directly by CUPE K-12 representatives, provincial officials gave assurances that the K-12 scheme was impractical and wouldn’t see the light of day. The post secondary version, given the euphemistic title “Administrative Services Transformation Project,” was more sinister. Targeting departments such as admin and IT, the study was cobbled together over the summer – for the most part without input from the institutions’ administrators – with the stated intention to have it up and running in October. The threat appeared real enough for CUPE 116 at UBC to insist on a job security commitment from the university in its new collective agreement. That’s why it’s so important for CUPE members to keep abreast of privatization developments in their sector. “We may face an up-hill battle, but we know that public services are the right choice,” concluded McQueen at the November conference. “CUPE members will continue to proudly provide public services across B.C. and work with communities to make them stronger.”
Why should CUPE members and citizens worry about Core Service Reviews? • Core Service Reviews focus on cuts rather than services. In fact, many services in the community need to be improved instead of cut. • Core Service Reviews almost never focus on the real impact of cuts to the community. • Core Service Reviews do not engage citizens to talk about community needs. Consultation is often just surveys designed to have people say their taxes are too high. • Many consultants have a bias in favour of privatizing services. For example, KPMG is a member of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships. • Consultants can come to the community with a template report. Sometimes whole paragraphs get lifted from one community report and applied to another. This “cookie cutter” approach does not reflect local needs. • Consultants have no ongoing interest in or connection to the community. They collect their consulting fee and leave town.
How can CUPE members and citizens respond when Council wants to hire an outside consultant for a Core Service Review? • The answers to the needs of the community lie in the community, not with high-priced consultants. Local governments hire well-trained management. And no one knows more about the needs of the community than citizens and the people who work for them. • Don’t buy the argument of “over taxation.” Surveys consistently show that people appreciate the services their local governments deliver.
CUPE CUP E communities
UNION, EMPLOYER UNITE AGAINST BULLYING S U R R E Y | CUPE members and employer
representatives sent a strong message against bullying when they arrived at an October bargaining session wearing purple in support of “Spirit Day”. “This day started with a young girl’s vision to make a difference in her community,” says Denise Parks, CUPE 402-02 unit chair. “Brittany McMillan, the niece of a CUPE 402-02 member, started this day two years ago asking everyone she knew to wear purple to remember those who had lost their lives to suicide due to bullying and to show support to other gay friends and family.” Parks adds that such a visible show of support is important to both union and employer groups.
TEAMING UP Union members, from left to right, Faye Wedel, Wanda Lindsay, and Audra Schroeder show off the popular book.
A rich history of local water CUPE, BCTF members team up to co-author new book Y AR R OW | CUPE and the BC Teachers’
CoDev membership supports global justice V ANC OU V E R | CoDevelopment
Canada’s annual World Community Film Festival (February 15-17) features more than 35 documentaries highlighting some of the urgent social justice and environmental issues confronting communities here and around the world. CUPE members who have individual memberships with CoDev receive festival discounts while deepening their union’s support for its Latin American partners. (For more info: www.codev.org/ film-festival)
Federation know a thing or two about inter-union solidarity, having often combined efforts to achieve gains for working people. Now two of their respective members have teamed up to produce a children’s book that has become the talk of the town in this small rural community (population: 3,000) in the eastern Fraser Valley. Recently, CUPE 411 member Faye Wedel and BCTF member Audra Schroeder co-produced The True Story of Yarrow’s Water, a 19-page comic-style book for young readers whose graphics combine photos of Yarrow with computergenerated imagery. It’s an engaging and
informative account of the town’s unique water system and its origins stretching back to the early 1940s. Shortly after Yarrow settler Henry Ratzlaff discovered two creeks on nearby Vedder Mountain, he built a reservoir and installed water pipes that gave Yarrow the capacity to run its own fire department and provide household water supply. With capacity and purification upgrades, the reservoir system is still in use. When the book was completed, community librarian and CUPE 1698 member Wanda Lindsay organized a launch party to celebrate its publication. On October 3, more than 90 elementary school pupils and guests attended the event at Yarrow Community Hall. For more information, contact email@example.com.
CHAMPIONS FOR LITERACY CUPE 391 members Laurin Shadforth, Jane Curry, president Alex Youngberg and Mark Whittam pose beside the CUPE BC community events trailer during Word on the Street festivities in the fall. 12
THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEE
PHOTO BY KRISTINA LAUKKANEN (FOR STEPHEN LEWIS FOUNDATION)
CUPE CUP E communities members making a difference SEEKING JUSTICE
CUPE PARAMEDICS GET DIAMOND JUBILEE NOD
South African grandmothers face many human rights challenges in caring for grandchildren orphaned by AIDS.
O T T AW A | Nine members of the BC
Ambulance Paramedics, CUPE Local 873, have been awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. This prestigious award recognizes these members for their work in promoting the paramedics profession locally, provincially and nationally. The awards were presented on November 19 by federal Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq and parliamentary secretary Dr. Colin Carrie. CUPE National president Paul Moist and CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill were on hand to congratulate honoured members Tom Manz, Bill Leverett, Bryon Longeway, Bronwyn Barter, Sherman Hillier, William “BJ” Chute, Grant Ross, Ernie Mothus, and John Strohmaier.
SPCA LOCAL COLLECTS CASH & FOOD FOR PETS SU R R E Y | CUPE 1622’s first annual holi-
day pet food drive collected 148 pounds of pet food and over $100 in cash donations, reports the Local representing SPCA workers in the Lower Mainland. CUPE 1622 president Jacqueline Hall says the Local hopes that the event, held on November 17, will be the first of many holiday pet food drives in support of the Surrey Food Bank. “As a Local, we want to focus on being more involved in the communities where we work and live,” says Hall. “People do so much giving during the holiday season, but sometimes pets get overlooked. This event was a great way to raise awareness of animals in need and to give back to the community.”
S. African grannies get a hearing Human rights tribunals to be held in Vancouver, TO One highlight of our division conventions in recent years has been the occasional appearance of former United Nations HIV/AIDS special envoy Stephen Lewis. One of Canada’s finest orators, Lewis will be back again this year as our keynote speaker. One topic he is sure to address will be the African Grandmother’s Tribunals in late February. These day-long tribunals, to be held
in Toronto and Vancouver, will hear from six African grandmothers who have suffered various human rights violations while caring for grandchildren orphaned by AIDS. A panel of African and international judges will make recommendations for change and redress, with appeals to such allies as former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and U.S. women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem. For more information about this and other initiatives of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which CUPE BC supports, visit www.stephenlewisfoundation.org.
SPIRITED CALL FOR SOCIAL CHANGE Members of CUPE BC’s aboriginal working group attended the annual Sisters in Spirit vigil in Vancouver on October 4. Sisters in Spirit, a national campaign launched by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) in March 2004, raises public awareness of the alarmingly high rates of violence against aboriginal women in Canada. WINTER 2013
power in numbers mark hancock
“What the right wingers here really want is to Wisconsinize their jurisdictions by stripping union rights however they can.”
Anti-labour legislation: the cancer is spreading iven the relentless union-bashing we have suffered under the BC Liberals – especially during the legislative assault of the Gordon Campbell years – Wisconsin’s so-called “budget repair bill” seemed hauntingly familiar when it reared its ugly head two years ago. Among other things, Act 10 made it illegal to negotiate wages above the consumer price index unless approved by referendum. Collective bargaining units now have to take annual votes to maintain union certification. Employers can no longer collect union dues, and members of collective bargaining units no longer have to pay dues. Now, even Michigan is following its lead, becoming the 24th “right to work” state. Yes, Sisters and Brothers, welcome to the ultimate Phil Hochstein fantasy: the North American banana republic. Sadly, this idea is now creeping across the border. In Saskatchewan, the province that brought us Medicare and progressive labour policy is turning into a province that wants to strip away workers’ rights. The governing party’s so-called “labour consultation” paper proposes to lengthen the work week, undermine public holidays, undercut unions’ ability to engage politically, and allow employers to apply to the LRB to decertify a union and for
THE BETTER WAY City of Toronto councillor Shelley Carroll (centre) told CUPE BC’s anti-privatization conference in November that healthier labour environments build stronger communities.
union members to opt out of paying union dues. In Ontario, the Conservatives’ white paper, “Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets,” seeks to return that province to the 19th century by making it harder for working people to organize, seek reasonable wages, or expect fair treatment in the workplace. The Ontario Tories, if elected, would end dues check-off and also push “right to work” legislation, a U.S.-style law that would suppress wages for both unionized and non-unionized workers. As usual, it’s a war of language that unions are up against: the politicians trying to sell this crap typically use nice, fluffy words like “consultation,” “flexibility,” “responsible governance” and “accountability.” But working people know B.S. when we hear it: what the right wingers in Saskatchewan and Ontario really want is to Wisconsinize their jurisdictions by stripping union rights however they can. Let’s not let it happen in B.C. Mark Hancock is secretary-treasurer of CUPE BC.
www.cupe.bc.ca + News + Commentary + Leaders’ voices MO R E O NL I NE
50 YEARS OF STRONG COMMUNITIES This year’s B.C. division convention (April 10-13, in Victoria) will be a special one, as it marks both the fiftieth anniversary of CUPE BC and Barry O’Neill’s final convention as president. With a keynote speech by Stephen Lewis, delegates’ memories of CUPE since 1963, and elections for a new president and executive, it promises to be memorable. PUBLISHED BY The Canadian Union of Public Employees, British Columbia Division
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Located in the heart of the Okanagan, the Naramata school has inspired more than three decades of CUPE members. This spring’s week-long sessions feature ten courses that will expand your horizons and sharpen your activist tools.
WEEK 1 / JUNE 2 - 7 ■ Arbitration ■ Basic Occupational Health & Safety ■ Communicating CUPE / Social Media ■ Grassroots Leadership (HEU Members Only) ■ Steward Learning Series WEEK 2 / JUNE 9 - 14 ■ Building Pension Activism ■ Creating Social Justice ■ Facing Management ■ Financial Officers ■ Mental Health / Workplace Stress
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AFTER 12 YEARS OF ATTACKS ON WORKING BRITISH COLUMBIANS, TIME IS UP FOR THE BC LIBERALS ON:
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MAY 14, 2013 It's your time to make a difference!
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