April 28 – Day of Mourning

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Every day, workers around the world are injured and killed while trying to earn a living. In Alberta, workplace deaths number in the hundreds per year.

On April 28th we pause to remember those injured and killed while working, and re-commit to improving conditions so further deaths will not occur.

The last year has sadly seen its share of workplace deaths and injuries. However, there is some good news. Alberta has joined other provinces in Canada in protecting agricultural workers under labour and health and safety laws. In the first three months of 2016, WCB Alberta has approved 159 applications for compensation from farmworkers – applications that would have been denied last year.

There is still much more to be done. Workplace deaths are preventable. Please keep working to make our jobs safer.

Click here to find out about April 28 events in your area.

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Election results

DSC_4882Election results

The following individuals were elected to the CUPE Alberta executive today.

Secretary – Treasurer

Glynnis Lieb (CUPE 3911)

General Vice President – North

David Graham (CUPE 941)

Recording Secretary

Diane Miller (CUPE 5606)

AVP – Peace River

Randy Wald (CUPE 787)

AVP Fort McMurray

Crystal Sali (CUPE 2545)

AVP Northwest

Sheila Stewart (CUPE 1357)

AVP Northeast

Joyce Baker (CUPE 1606)

AVP Edmonton

Lee-Anne Kalen (CUPE 1099)

AVP Red Deer

Brenda Reid (CUPE 4733)

AVP Calgary

Rory Gill (CUPE 709)

AVP Lethbridge

Esther Rodzinyak (CUPE 1825)

AVP Medicine Hat

Brenda Barton (CUPE 46)

AAVP – Edmonton

Mario Pailamilla (CUPE 474)

AAVP Peace River

Sherri McGinty (CUPE 3705)

Diversity Vice President

Elizabeth Bonk-Richards (CUPE 4731)

Trustee – three year term

Barry Benoit (CUPE 474)

AAVP – Lethbridge

Liselotte (Lottie) Freijer-Poulsen (CUPE 70)

Mental health issues dominate convention

voting cardIssues of mental health in and around the workplace dominated discussion at the CUPE Alberta convention on Thursday morning. Two committee reports (Global Justice and Equal Opportunities) as well as a number of resolutions dealt with the subject.

Delegates heard a presentation from Claudia Canales & Andrew Szeto about the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

“There is a common myth that those who ‘suck it up’ are strong,” said Szeto.  “Those who share their story are the strong ones.”

Szeto said the Mental Health Commission, an arm’s length organization funded by the Federal Government, aims to reduce the stigma about mental health in Canada and open minds.

According to the commission, one in five Canadians have a mental illness each year. Almost 500,000 Canadians will not go to work because of mental illness, at a cost of $51 billion per year to hospitals, insurance costs, lost wages, and other costs.  Szeto calls that figure conservative, since it doesn’t include ‘presenteeism’ and many other costs associated with mental health.

There is help for many people with mental health problems, but the stigma remains a barrier. According to Szeto, between 50%-65% won’t seek help; but help seeking leads to better prognosis, increased productivity and a positive financial impact.

In addition, doing nothing adds costs to employers due to staff turnover, legal implications and injuries.

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CUPE Treasurer outlines plan to make the union stronger

DSC_4227The challenges facing public sector workers and CUPE have never been greater, and CUPE National Secretary Treasurer Charles Fleury says the union has a battle plan ready to face those challenges.

Fleury told convention delegates that while revenues are tight, CUPE is allocating resources with an eye to giving locals the power to make gains at the bargaining table.

“CUPE is a very strong union,” said Fleury.  “In CUPE we know how to mobilize our members and how to resist attacks.”

Fleury praised CUPE workplace stewards as key to a strong union.  “Union Stewards talk with our members and back them up every day,” said Fleury. “We must support and mentor new stewards, we must send them to union education classes, we must tell them why we are fighting to raise every CUPE wage to at least nineteen dollars per hour.  Why we fight to make sure that we have more full-time permanent jobs.  Why we need pensions for every CUPE member.”

Fleury reminded delegates that changes made to the National Strike and Defense Funds at will Increase CUPE’s campaign power, allowing more funds for local, regional, and National campaign initiatives.

“Our priority is always to make sure that the picket lines stay strong and that we win the strike,” said Fleury.  “We hope that this will help our members who are not working the traditional nine-to-five full-time job – mainly our precarious workers.”

Finally, Fleury said that with a large number of new staff, CUPE is investing in training.

“We have increased the funds for the mentoring and trainee rep program,” said Fleury. “This is especially important because now, fifty-four percent of our staff have less than five years on the job.  This is a time of big staff changes.”

“Alone we can only do so much.  But when we work together and support each other, we have the people power and the resources to win many fights.”

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Hancock launches CUPE ‘Year of Health & Safety’

DSC_4159CUPE National President Mark Hancock used his first speech to CUPE Alberta to launch the ‘Year of Health and Safety’ saying “CUPE will never accept workplace violence as ‘just part of the job.’”

“CUPE is renewing our commitment to achieving safer workplaces – for our members and for all workers, in Canada and around the globe.

Hancock remembered the lives of CUPE members and other workers killed on the job in the last year, and spoke about the death of four workers in 2009 who fell off a scaffolding outside a Toronto apartment building because they were not properly secured.  Because of a bill passed in 2004, the project manager was sentenced to three and a half years in jail.

It’s not okay for families to lose their loved ones just because they went to work.

“It took 11 years, but with this sentence there is finally a clear message to the bosses,” said Hancock, “You kill a worker, you will be held responsible. You will go to jail. Full stop.”

The CUPE President saluted the Alberta government for passing legislation protecting farm workers under health and safety rules.

“This move wasn’t without controversy. But it was the right thing to do, and I thank Premier Rachel Notley and her NDP government for showing the leadership and courage to take a stand for the health and safety of all workers.”

Hancock went further with his praise for the Notley government, saying last year’s Alberta election ‘has shown the rest of the country what was possible.”

“The task ahead for Premier Notley and her government is quite frankly daunting,” said Hancock. “Four decades of Conservative rule cannot be fixed overnight.”

Hancock also had words for Alberta’s opposition parties. “The right-wing is working itself into a frenzy calling for wage freezes, privatization of public services, and the cutting of thousands of public sector jobs,” said Hancock.  “They argue that Alberta can shrink its way into more prosperous times. They are wrong.”

“We know better. We know that freezing wages and cutting public services isn’t the right answer in a challenging economy.”

“We must help Premier Notley protect and strengthen our public services, to help all Albertans get through this economic downturn.  We must help her and her government diversify the economy so it is not so vulnerable to the boom and crashes of the oil and gas industry.”

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Remembering a fallen leader

mike-mcneilCUPE President Mark Hancock took time from in his address to convention to pay tribute to CUPE NS President Mike McNeil, who passed away suddenly this month, only weeks after being selected to the position.

“Mike was a dedicated union activist for most of his life,” said Hancock. “Mike was passionate about union education and as a facilitator he touched the lives of thousands of CUPE members in Nova Scotia.”

“On behalf of all CUPE members, Brother Charles and I have conveyed our deepest sympathies to Mike’s wife Darlene, their three children, all of his family and friends.”

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Roberts outlines CUPE’s vision for Alberta economy

DSC_4074CUPE Alberta President Marle Roberts used her convention report to outline her prescriptions for Alberta’s ailing economy.

Roberts called on the Notley NDP government to continue efforts to diversify Alberta’s economy from its reliance on oil and gas.

“The price of oil goes up and down. It’s a boom and bust industry. And during the busts, Alberta has few other industries to soften the blow,” said Roberts.

Roberts pointed to many opportunities for new industy in Alberta including “development of renewable energy resources like wind and solar and the development of value added industries that turn oil products into gasoline, plastics and other products ready for the market.”

Roberts blasted opposition Conservative and Wildrose politicians for calling for cuts to public services and the wages of people who provide them.

“The Opposition would have you believe that at a time when people are losing their jobs, the government should freeze wages and lay off public sector workers,” said Roberts. “At this time, we need public services now more than ever. Taking thousands of public servants out of employment will make a bad situation much, much worse.”

Roberts indicated that with an NDP government, labour has a more respectful role in the corridors of power, and indicated that while bargaining was going to be hard as long as oil prices were low, “we are bargaining with a government that respects contracts.”

“The NDP government is listening to what CUPE has to say, and respecting our opinions.”

Roberts pointed to a number of long standing CUPE issues that have been addressed since the NDP came to power, including the cancellation of a hospital lab privatization project, an increase to the minimum wage, a freeze on tuition rates, fairer taxes for middle income earners, and better funding for health care and education.

However, Roberts said there was more for CUPE to accomplish, including winning more control over pension plans and better conditions in Alberta’s seniors care homes.

“Alberta seniors care is still a mess after many years of mismanagement,” said Roberts. “There is a desperate need for more public long term care spaces. Seniors are taking up expensive beds in hospitals because of the lack of space. Among the facilities we do have, there needs to be more staff, better paid staff, and better funded facilities.”

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