Government wage rollbacks will hurt CUPE members

You’ve likely heard that the Jason Kenney government is seeking wage rollbacks of between 2-5% for different groups of public sector union employees.

This represents another broken promise by Jason Kenney and it will hurt hundreds of thousands of Albertans who work hard every day in our provincial government and health care system.

I don’t need to tell you that many members of the public service haven’t seen a cost of living wage increase in years, so asking them to take a wage reduction is a slap in the face from a Premier who earns $200,000 per year on top of a $120,000 pension from his years as a Member of Parliament.

For the moment, the Kenney government is only seeking wage reductions for a limited group of union members that does not include CUPE. Unions (like AUPE, UNA and HSAA) who have collective agreements in place with arbitrated wage re-openers in 2019 are the subject of this attack.

Our friends and family members in UNA, HSAA and AUPE are under attack by Kenney,  who is seeking to use the wage re-opener arbitration process to roll back the wages of workers who haven’t had raises in at least two years. CUPE will stand with them as they fight back.

But while CUPE isn’t the union in Jason Kenney’s sites at the moment, these decisions affect us in several concrete ways:

  1. There are a couple of CUPE locals in the K-12 sector who have wage arbitrations this year. While the Kenney government has been silent on what position they will take in those arbitrations, there is no reason to believe they won’t seek wage reductions.
  2. Several other CUPE locals have ‘me-too’ agreements in their contracts which tie their wages to settlements made by the unions being attacked.
  3. Rest assured that if Jason Kenney can win wage reductions from AUPE, HSAA, the Nurses or other groups, they will try the same tactics with CUPE.  Just because we are not first, doesn’t mean we don’t have just as much on the line.

CUPE will do everything possible to fight wage reductions in the public sector. We will work with these unions and the Alberta Federation of Labour to let Jason Kenney know this is not an acceptable way to treat Alberta’s employees.  We need you to also speak out. Let your MLAs know what you think of this. Make your voices heard. Together, we can win back our Alberta.

 

In solidarity,

Rory Gill, President
CUPE Alberta

Budget low lights – how Jason Kenney’s budget hurts everyone

During the provincial election, Jason Kenney promised to ‘maintain or increase’ public services, lower taxes and bring down the deficit. His first budget breaks all three of those promises.

Here are some of the details.

Pensions

  • The provincial budget takes control of public service pension plans away from workers. The UCP wants to make decisions about benefits and investments of the plan. Just this year, workers gained full partnership in the management of our pensions (like every other province). Jason Kenney’s budget wipes out that gain and grabs power over our retirement funds.

Education

  • Base instruction funding for grades 1-3 students in metro/urban areas is cut from $8,201 to $6,883, a 16% cut.
  • Funding for increased enrollment will continue this year but be stopped after that.
  • Funding for Educational Assistants (who provide help to kids with special needs) has been cut.
  • Class size reduction funding has been cut.
  • The programs to keep school fees low have been cut.

Health Care

  • A $100 million cut in funding for nurses.
  • A $90 million cut to drug coverage.
  • At least 46,000 seniors will lose drug coverage.
  • Ambulance services will be cut by $11 million.
  • Less funding for acute care services in hospitals.
  • A delay in the building of a new hospital in south Edmonton, and delays to much needed improvements at the Royal Alex and Misericordia.
  • Delay in building the new cancer center in Calgary.
  • Work on a new hospital for Red Deer has stopped.

Municipal services

  • Jason Kenney has broken his explicit platform promise to maintain the city charter with Edmonton & Calgary and the funding arrangements included it in.
  • Alberta will no longer pay property tax on its buildings, meaning a cut to municipal funding of about $81 million.
  • Municipalities with a population of under 5,000 will go from paying nothing for police services to paying 70% of those costs.
  • Funding for new LRT lines are delayed without a renewal date. Funding for Calgary’s Green line is being cut from $555 million to $75 million – putting 20,000 construction jobs at risk.
  • Badly needed Edmonton projects like the Terwillegar interchange and the Stadium Station safety upgrades are on hold.
  • Funding for flood mitigation in Calgary is being cut between $30-$50 million.
  • Other regional infrastructure projects are being cut by $50 million.
  • The amount of fines and penalties collected by municipalities has been cut and kept by the province.

Post Secondary education

  • The tuition freeze has been lifted. Tuition is expected to increase by 21% over three years.
  • The education tax credit has been removed.
  • Interest rates on student loans have been increased by 1%.
  • The Kenney government reduced funding for post-secondary institutions but maintained funding for five private, religious universities.

Taxes & fees

  • Every single Albertan will pay higher provincial taxes as Kenney has not indexed tax brackets. This is a $600 million tax increase.
  • Car insurance fees are increasing.
  • Vehicle registration and recreational vehicle registration fees are increasing.
  • Caps on electricity prices are being removed.
  • Municipal taxes will likely increase to cover lower transfers from the province.
  • New fees on tourism levies – like hotel rooms and Airbnb accommodations.
  • Increased tobacco and vaping taxes.
  • A provincial capital cost allowance has been adopted, meaning a further lowering of corporate taxes by about $370 million.
  • Fees for immigrant programs go from $0 to $500.

Assistance for low income Albertans

  • Employment and income support programs are being reduced by 20% over four years.
  • $45 million in rent supports are gone.
  • $44 million in housing supports have been cut.
  • About 165,000 families living just above the poverty line will see lower child and family benefits – including 55,000 families who will lose them completely. These benefits were credited with cutting child poverty in half in Alberta.
  • AISH funding will be de-indexed. As of January, that will mean a reduction of $30/month. In four years the difference will be closer to $120/month for people with disabilities.

Job creation

  • Elimination of the scientific research and experimental development credit, which will reduce research into new technologies.
  • Removal of the interactive digital media credit, which targeted job creation in software design.

Other

  • Putting lottery funds into general revenue. Previously these funds were used for numerous not-for-profit and charitable organizations.

What are the alternatives? Don’t we have to balance the budget?

Jason Kenney says he will balance the budget by 2023 – the exact same timeline the Notley NDP government was working toward without all the cuts. Under Kenney – the budget deficit is expected to increase by $2 billion this year!

What’s the difference?

  • The Kenney government gave a $4.7 billion tax cut to already profitable corporations. They claimed this would create jobs, but companies like Husky merely pocketed the windfall while laying off hundreds in Calgary. In fact, since the corporate tax cut came into effect on July 1, 27,000 jobs have been lost in Alberta.
  • The UCP has cut the oil by rail plan, which according to their own documents would have brought in $1 billion in revenue this year, or $8.5 billion over four years. And that’s not even factoring in the $1.5 billion it cost to cancel the contract.

The Kenney cutbacks save $1.3 billion. The corporate tax give-away cost $4.5 billion. Cancelling oil by rail cost $2.5 billion this year alone. And our deficit is growing higher under Jason Kenney than it would have been under the NDP.

These are the choices Jason Kenney has made.

 

Have we missed anything? Gotten something wrong? Email larab@cupe.ca with suggestions.

Cuts to education and health a betrayal of Jason Kenney’s promise

Statement by CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill on today’s provincial budget:

During the provincial election this spring, Jason Kenney promised to ‘maintain or increase’ public services. Today’s budget breaks that promise.

Kenney is not freezing spending on health care and education, cuts will come. They will come as costs increase and services are squeezed as a result. Doctor’s fees and other contracts will have to be honoured, and that means money will be taken from front line services. Longer wait times, poorer care, fewer nurses with more patients is what we can expect.

In fact, in this budget – Jason Kenney is cutting nurses, rural doctors, drug services and ambulance services. These are real cuts that will hurt all Albertans. 

In education, it’s the same story – as the population grows, school districts will be squeezed. In turn, they will put more kids into each class, and hire fewer teachers, support staff, custodial workers and educational assistants to try and keep things going. 

The Kenney budget cuts Educational Assistants, it cuts funding for class size reduction, and it cuts funding to keep school fees low.

In what universe is this ‘maintaining services in health and education?’

Other services will be even worse off. A 10% cut in post secondary education is the exact opposite approach Alberta should be taking. We need to train people for high tech jobs of the future. Not increase tuition and lower standards in our colleges and universities.  Tuition is expected to jump by as much as 23%, and families will no longer have the education tax credit to help out.

Municipal grants have been cut. This means less funding for roads, building and new projects. And if cities decide to cover the provincial funding themselves, they will take the funds from operations – meaning rec centres, libraries and other public spaces will reduce hours. Trash collection and road repair will be even less frequent, and wait times to get access to municipal services will increase.

And everyone’s income taxes are also increasing as the government de-indexes the tax exemptions. Amazingly, they still claim they are not raising taxes.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Kenney government moved quickly to give a $4.5 billion tax cut to already profitable corporations. They claimed this would create jobs, but companies like Husky merely pocketed the windfall while laying off hundreds in Calgary.

The Kenney cut backs save $1.3 billion. The corporate tax give away cost $4.5 billion. These are the choices Jason Kenney has made.

AISH recipients (who cannot work due to disabilities) lose indexing. Kenney says it’s not a big deal. It is a big deal. All of it is a big deal.

We need to fight back, and we will fight back. But I can’t do it alone. CUPE members must speak up. Watch this space for more updates, share this video, attend union meetings, sign petitions and go to rallies. It all helps. We’re all in this together – and we have to take our province back.

 

 

STAND TOGETHER AGAINST BILL 9

Workers and supporters across the province are taking action and standing together against Bill 9.

Our contracts, our wages and our rights are under attack.  Come out and join the fight against the UCP’s Bill 9 at info-pickets being organized across Alberta.

 

Edmonton

Thursday, October 24, 2019
4:30pm – 5:30pm

Rundle Centre
3341 – 118 Avenue
Edmonton, AB

Picket in the parking Lot

 

Medicine Hat

Monday, October 28, 2019
11:00am – 1:00pm

Medicine Hat Regional Hospital
666 – 5 Street SW, Medicine Hat, AB

Picket on the corner of 8th Ave SW and 5th St SW

 

For more information please visit:

https://www.aupe.org/news-and-publications/campaigns/fight-back-aupe

 

CUPE Alberta Region – Seeking Member Facilitators

CUPE Alberta Region is looking to expand the roster of available Member Facilitators.  If you have taken CUPE Courses, have an interest in Union Education and would be willing to be trained to become a Member Facilitator please click the link below for the application.

CUPE Member Facilitators Application

Roster’s are based on many factors such as geographical area represented, members of equity seeking groups, or positive experience or involvement within the local.  For further information please refer to the link below for the full letter from Audrey Barr, Education Representative, Alberta Region.  If you have further questions Audrey can be contacted at abarr@cupe.ca.

CUPE Alberta Region – Letter Re:  Call-Out for Member Facilitators

 

Wood Buffalo Housing lockout ends CUPE members vote to accept mediator’s recommendations

FORT MCMURRAY – Unionized employees of Wood Buffalo Housing voted last night to accept the recommendations of a mediator to end the five-month lock out at the public housing agency.

The lockout, which started May 10th, impacted all 46 CUPE members working for WBH. The dispute centered on the company’s desire to contract out services conducted by groundskeeping, housekeeping and maintenance employees.

CUPE Local 1505 President Judy Collier said she is satisfied with the results.

“After five months on the picket line, our members have fought and won an important battle,” said Collier.

“While we didn’t get everything we wanted, our actions made a difference and showed Wood Buffalo Housing that employees are not expendable.”

Collier said the mediator’s recommendations saved many of the jobs set to be contracted out, guarantees no further contracting out, and increases the severance package for those who are not protected.

Workers return to work Oct 23.

“In the days to come, the new normal starts at WBHD. Many of our members go back to doing what they love – helping residents and serving our community.”

“Lockouts and strikes are challenging, I could not be prouder of our members. They have shown strength, courage and determination against a hostile employer. They’ve stood up for themselves and earned the respect they deserve.”

 

Mediator makes recommendation to end Wood Buffalo Housing lockout

FORT MCMURRAY, AB – The union representing 46 locked out workers at Wood Buffalo Housing has confirmed that there is a potential settlement to end the almost five-month labour dispute.

Judy Collier, President of CUPE 1505 confirmed that parties had difficulties coming to a final agreement, but the union will present a mediator’s recommendation to members over the next few days and that members will be able to vote to accept or reject the recommendation.

“After five months on the picket line, taking the mediator’s recommendations to our members for a vote is our best option,” said Collier. “CUPE will support the members, whatever decision the members make.”

CUPE will not discuss the details of the mediator’s report until after it has been explained to members.

EDMONTON ELECTION TRAINING CAMP

Hosted by the Canadian Labour Congress:

When:  Saturday, September 14, 2019 – 11:30 am – 3:30 pm

Where: Hudson’s Pub on Whyte Ave (10307 – 82 Avenue NW) (Private Room Rented)

What:    Training on Federal Election Issues and a Social to Build Momentum

The event will have speakers and training in the morning with a “use what you’ve learned” canvass taking place after lunch.

Facebook link for more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/447264009214009/

This event is open to the public and is kid-friendly, and the venue is accessible for all abilities.  Parking is street parking.

Further Details about the Federal Election Training & Social in Alberta:

What does it take to move the needle and have our progressive values front of mind in our communities?

It takes showing up. It takes sharing ideas to drive our collective momentum. It takes building connections with each other to then feel emboldened to speak loud and proud about what YOU believe in.

Join the fun on September 14th, meet others that are fighting to keep our Edmonton-Strathcona riding orange and to expand that orange centre.

We’ve seen what Jason Kenney and the UCP is doing to the rights of working people, how he is trying to mess with our collective agreements and trying to take away the funding streams we rely on to have a vibrant labour movement in Alberta.

Let alone how he is regressing the gains we’ve made in women’s rights and LGBTQ2S+ protections.

We’ve had enough and having his buddy Andrew Scheer in office at the federal level will give them an immense amount of power to destroy and regress our rights.

Being active in this election is crucial so the right-wing extremist Premiers don’t have a federal leader that could open up our constitution to tear apart the protections that Canada is built on


Itinerary:

11:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.
Welcome and Greetings from the Canadian Labour Congress & Alberta’s Labour Leaders

11:50 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
Election Training | Know the Issues & Make a Difference

12:45 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.
Lunch (provided), Mingle & Build Momentum

1:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Meet our Alberta NDP Candidates for the Federal Election

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Use Our New Knowledge and Canvass