Wood Buffalo continues to push for fly-by-night contractors over employees

FORT MCMURRAY – As the lockout of Wood Buffalo Housing (WBH) employees reaches the two-month mark, bargaining between CUPE 1505 and the housing authority continues at a slow pace.

Earlier today, Wood Buffalo Housing issued a news release outlining its perspective on how bargaining has progressed.  CUPE 1505 President Judy Collier was unimpressed. “They did not provide accurate information” said Collier.  “For instance, three members have been moved to the Rotary House Collective Agreement, not two.”

Collier said CUPE remains committed to fighting for employees who are committed to the region instead of replacing them with “low wage contractors.”

“The union is committed to increasing its pressure campaign.” Collier said.  Union advertising was expanded on Friday to movie theatres, and that they are looking at bringing pressure on WBH board members.

“The WBH board members have been too quiet,” said Collier. “They can take a stand and end this mistreatment of their employees. We’re not prepared to let them hide much longer.”

 

Calgary Drop-In Centre workers determined to unionize

Workers at the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre are calling on their colleagues to band together and unionize after facing years of unsafe working conditions, unlivable wages and a lack of fair and transparent hiring practices.

Despite their invaluable community work, Calgary Drop-In staff are severely underpaid. Full-time caseworkers are paid below the Government of Alberta’s Core Needs Income Threshold. Despite being on-call around the clock, service workers do not receive shift premiums when working evening or overnight. At the same time, executive staff are paid salaries between $160,000 and $299,000, according to data from the Canada Revenue Agency.

“We don’t do these jobs for the money. We do them because we care about our communities and supporting society’s most vulnerable, but we still need to eat. We have kept our heads down and remained silent for too long. Something has to change, and the only way we are going to see changes is by banding together,” said a Calgary Drop-In Centre worker whose identity cannot be revealed due to the threat of retaliation from their employer.

Drop-In Centre workers often work with clients with complex mental health issues, many of whom struggle with addiction. Substance abuse issues and drug poisonings have made difficult front-line work even more dangerous and mentally exhausting.

“There are days when workers on the floor are dealing with multiple overdoses and we are simply expected to carry on working without even a break,” said a Calgary Drop-In Centre worker. “We build strong relationships with individuals we work with, and it is heart-breaking and traumatic to find someone you care about has died of an overdose. We don’t have the emotional and mental health supports to work through the trauma associated with that.”

Calgary Drop-In centre employees are fighting for a fair and safe workplace. They have decided to make their union drive public to combat fear and raise awareness among the hundreds of staff that there is a way forward. Workers at the DI and the community are encouraged to reach out to Colette Singh at csingh@cupe.ca and Dominique Damian-Wallace at dominique.dw@gmail.com for more information on how to sign up or regarding the union drive.

City of Chestermere workers vote to unionize

CHESTERMERE – Workers at the City of Chestermere have joined CUPE after an overwhelming majority voted in favour of certification.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill welcomed the group into CUPE. “We welcome these workers into the CUPE family,” says CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill. “These workers decided they wanted to have the protection of Canada’s largest union, better treatment from their employer and respect for the services they provide. Today, the ballots have been counted, and the employees’ voices have been heard.”

CUPE Alberta represents approximately 42,000 members in Alberta with over 200 collective agreements.

CUPE Local 4070 Recognizes International Flight Attendants’ Day

Today, May 31st, is International Flight Attendants Day, a day to recognize the spirit and the efforts of flight attendants around the world.

The last couple of years have been particularly challenging for flight attendants. Many have worked through the pandemic, bringing Canadians home and keeping essential travel operating. As things return to normal and travel resumes, flight attendants have welcomed Canadian families and business travellers back to the sky, while ensuring safety protocols and procedures remain in place.

“We’d like to take this day to recognize all of our members for their efforts and dedication through the pandemic. The pandemic brought unique challenges for flight attendants including increased loneliness and isolation on layovers, and immense difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities with limited flexibility and non-existent childcare options,” said CUPE Local 4070 President Crystal Hill.

CUPE represents about 4,000 flight attendants and cabin crew members at Westjet, Encore and Swoop airlines. Though many were laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, all Local 4070 have since been able to return to the sky.

“We’re so glad our members have been able to return to work safely. However, the new normal has been overwhelming and has brought its own set of issues that affect our members every day. Today is a day to reflect and salute the resiliency of all Local 4070 members at WestJet, WestJet Encore, Swoop, and our Airline Division colleagues.”

To mark the day, CUPE Local 4070 will be recognizing the efforts of flight attendants with gift baskets generously donated by Van Houtte, Bigelow Tea, Master Chocolate, Step Up Comfort, Pocket of Flowers, Rita’s Kitchen, Royal Ontario Museum, Steven Sarasin, Beaded Beginnings, Infinite Alchemy, Siesta Massage Therapy, Tilted Veil, and Prismatic Ash Soap Co.

CUPE Alberta President calls on Albertans to keep fighting

President of CUPE Alberta, Rory Gill released the following statement on Premier Jason Kenney’s resignation.

“Last night, the worst Premier in Alberta’s history resigned. Jason Kenney’s resignation is welcome news, but our fight against the UCP government’s privatization agenda must continue.

Though Jason Kenney is gone, the UCP continues to implement its anti-worker, anti-union, anti-Alberta agenda. The United Conservatives are still pushing ahead with a plan to privatize and dismantle public services. Bill 32, the UCP’s unconstitutional anti-union legislation, remains on the books as a tool for the UCP government to muzzle workers and unions.

It doesn’t matter who the next UCP leader is; the UCP is bad for Alberta and for Alberta workers. It is not focused on the things that matter to Alberta families; it is focused on itself and distracted by its internal disarray and infighting.

We have faced much adversity as a movement, but Jason Kenney’s resignation shows we are making progress and that our voices are being heard. Now, more than ever, we must continue to raise our collective voice. Now is not the time to retreat. We must keep fighting until the UCP is sent packing.”

Dance school shuttered, kids lose out

Fort McMurray – The union representing employees at the MacDonald Island Dance Academy (MIDA) is speaking out about the closure of the school, saying it provides an important and growing service in the city.

Craig Milley, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1505 says information provided by MacDonald Island CEO Craig Walsh about the school is “concerning and inaccurate.” Milley says the program was profitable up until COVID hit in March 2020.

The union says a 2021/2022 Business Case projected the Academy to be profitable, and despite the dance season starting a month late in the 2021/2022 season, the overall revenue to date already exceeds last year’s revenue.

“There is no evidence to support the notion that there has been a steady decline in participation and/or registration of the program for several years pre-pandemic,” said Milley. “The numbers show that the program was profitable between 2014 and early 2020.”

The Union and Dance Instructors provided Mr. Walsh with a 12-page Alternate Business Case, which is in accordance with the Collective Agreement, that would increase the marketability of the MIDA program and ensure the sustainability of the program.

“He clearly didn’t want to hear it, he didn’t even meet with the dance instructors and I to review and hear what it was all about,” Milley said.

“It’s about the kids,” he said. “Some of these kids have been with the studio and the same instructors for 10 years. The kids are losing their studio and their instructors, the instructors are losing their jobs, and the community is losing a dance program that was profitable and could continue to be profitable.”

The union is calling for a formal investigation under the Municipal Government Act, of CEO Craig Walsh, for his misleading information and lack of compliance with the terms of the Collective Agreement.

“The public deserves the real story.”

 

Labour Minister Madu won’t meet with unions

He has two phones but won’t use either – CUPE

CALGARY – When Jason Copping was Minister of Labour, union leaders like Rory Gill talked to him frequently. But now that Kaycee Madu is in charge, unions are shut out.

The President of CUPE Alberta is steaming that Minister Madu is refusing to even arrange a phone call with him about the contentious and complicated Bill 32.

Rory Gill says he tried to arrange a meeting or phone call with Madu, to follow up on a discussion that began when Jason Copping was minister. However, he’s been informed by the Minister’s office that they won’t even consider a meeting for several months.

“CUPE doesn’t like the UCP, and the UCP doesn’t like CUPE,” said Gill. “But Ministers have a duty to talk to their stakeholders.”

“Jason Copping gave me his cell phone number and we talked and texted often.  Tyler Shandro did the same when he was Minister. But Kaycee Madu doesn’t want to have the difficult conversations.”

Gill says his union is working hard to be ready for the implementation of Bill 32 on August 1st. But the regulations are complex and subject to multiple interpretations.  The Bill regulates union spending on ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ items and allows members to opt-out of the portion of dues that go toward ‘non-core’ activities like charitable donations.

“Minister Copping acknowledged that there were items open to interpretation and promised to get back to me with some resources to allow CUPE to remain in compliance,” said Gill. “Madu will not follow up, or even agree to send an official to discuss these matters with us.”

“Kaycee Madu has two phones. He knows how to use them to call law enforcement and try and get out of a traffic ticket. How about the Minister of Labour actually agree to call a few union representatives?”

 

CUPE and Red Deer Catholic Schools sign historic first agreement

Deal comes after long negotiations

RED DEER – About 300 employees at Red Deer Catholic School District have a first contract with their employer. The employees include educational assistants, library workers, and clerical staff.

The deal provides modest wage increases, job protections, seniority provisions and a means to settle disputes when they arise between employees and the district. The contract was settled after almost three years of bargaining for a first contract.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill said K-12 staff are poorly compensated in Alberta.

“The average educational assistant in Alberta makes just over $27,000 a year,” said Gill.  “That’s not enough to live on, and it’s not enough for the people who help some of our most vulnerable kids.”

CUPE says the deal took a long time to negotiate because the provincial UCP government didn’t want to compensate workers fairly.

“The district has to get any settlement approved by the UCP government in Edmonton. And the UCP remain opposed to paying K-12 staff a living wage.”

Gill stated that educational assistants generally have at least one year of training and are required to balance teaching plans, individual student needs, and administrative responsibilities while keeping students safe.

“I’m glad we were able to move the needle a small amount, but Alberta needs to seriously re-adjust the compensation rates for K-12 employees.”

Calgary long term care facilities to reduce staffing levels: Union lack of funding cited

While the fifth wave of the COVID pandemic has caused most jurisdictions to require higher staffing levels at most long term care facilities, some local operators are being forced to reduce hours to make up for government funding gaps.

CUPE Alberta says its members working at Intercare Corporate Group Inc. are having their hours reduced and some positions are being eliminated. Over 75 part time employees and 41 full time employees working at Chinook Care Centre, Southwood Care Centre and Brentwood Care Centre are losing hours. Most of the reductions are happening in housekeeping and laundry, but some dietary positions are also being reduced and one unit clerk position is being eliminated.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill says funding for long term care facilities has not increased since before the pandemic, even as costs go up.

“The Kenney government’s budget and approach to COVID continues to cause needless pain and suffering,” said Gill. “The UCP learned nothing from early outbreaks at seniors’ facilities and are continuing to pinch pennies and force seniors to make do with less.”

Gill noted that a government review of continuing care released last May called for increases in staffing levels at seniors’ care facilities. Then Health Minister Tyler Shandro claimed in the Legislature that the government was working on an action plan to implement those recommendations.

“Eight months after promising seniors higher levels of care, we’re seeing cuts,” said Gill. “As usual, the UCP says one thing, does another and lies through its teeth.”

CUPE 4070 members ratify new contract with Swoop

CALGARY, Alberta- CUPE Flight Attendants working at Swoop, WestJet’s ultra low cost carrier, have signed off on their first collective bargaining agreement. Members voted today to ratify the tentative collective agreement reached in September. The five-year agreement includes wage improvements, and momentum towards industry-standard scheduling and pay rules.

“This is the first ever collective agreement for our membership at Swoop. Ratification of this deal is proof positive that certifying with CUPE has been instrumental in our members’ pursuit of fair working conditions,” said CUPE 4070 President Chris Rauenbusch. “Reaching this deal was not easy in light of the circumstances caused by the global pandemic. I’d like to thank both our union and our bargaining committee for working so hard to find a path forward despite the challenges of the past 18 months.”

CUPE represents over 200 Flight Attendants at Swoop. The parties have been engaged in collective bargaining towards a first union contract since February 2020.

CUPE also represents cabin crew at WestJet mainline and its subsidiary WestJet Encore.

Union leaders call on Jason Kenney to ask federal government for immediate assistance

“We’ve run out of staff. Kenney’s fourth wave is collapsing the system.” – Rory Gill, President, CUPE Alberta

EDMONTON – The leaders of Alberta’s largest health care unions are calling on Premier Jason Kenney to ask the federal government to immediately deploy the military, the Red Cross and all other available medical resources from across the country to assist the province’s overwhelmed hospitals.

Taken together, the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), represent more than 100,000 people working in Alberta’s health care system.

The presidents of all four unions say Alberta’s health care system is not just “on the verge” of collapse – they say it’s actually collapsing right in front of our eyes.

With that in mind, UNA President Heather Smith, AUPE President Guy Smith, HSAA President Mike Parker, CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill and the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) President Gil McGowan have sent a joint letter to Premier Kenney asking him to formally request help from the federal government.

There are recent precedents set for this kind of action. Just five months ago, in April 2021, three military medical units were deployed to support long term care facilities in Ontario as they were overwhelmed by the third wave of the pandemic. The federal government also paid for the Red Cross to be deployed and helped coordinate assistance from other provinces.

The letter says, “There are no more nurses in our province who can be deployed. There are no more paramedics. There are no more respiratory therapists. There are no more support staff. The tank is empty. The well is dry.” It concludes by reminding Premier Kenney of his constitutional responsibility as Premier to formally ask the federal government for assistance.

“They cannot act unless you ask them to act. So please, on behalf of our beleaguered members on the front-line of this crisis, and on behalf of all Albertans, we are officially asking you to request help from the federal government.”

Quotes
“The Alberta government says they’ll continue to open up ICU beds as needed to deal with the fourth wave. But beds mean nothing without properly qualified staff. And there are simply no more experienced people to mobilize.” – Heather Smith, UNA President

“We represent some of the lowest paid and least recognized workers delivering care to Albertans through this crisis. They’re giving everything they can give, and then some. But the tank is empty, and they’re exhausted and demoralized. We can’t wait for the dust to settle from the federal election. We need help now.” – Guy Smith, AUPE President

“Our paramedics are overstretched and exhausted. There are no more respiratory therapists. Everyone is either working or sick. There are no more rabbits to pull out of the hat. That’s why we need our Premier to swallow his pride and ask the rest of Canada for help.” – Mike Parker, HSAA President

“We’ve run out of staff and we’ve run out of options. This fourth wave of the pandemic is collapsing our health care system. I think we should all call this wave of the pandemic the Kenney wave because he created it with his selfish and reckless ‘Open for Summer’ policies. In the coming weeks and months, we’re going to make sure he’s held accountable. But for now, Kenney needs to finally take responsibility for his failures and get more staff to the frontlines to protect Albertans. That’s why we are asking him to request the federal government to send in the military.” – Rory Gill, CUPE Alberta

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