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.”


CUPE Alberta to hold convention in Fort McMurray next week

Media Advisory March 14, 2022

EDMONTON – The Alberta Division of Canada’s largest union will hold its annual convention in Fort McMurray March 22-24 at the Quality Inn (424 Gregoire Dr.)

This will mark the first in-person convention CUPE Alberta has held since 2019. Subsequent conventions were held online due to the COVID pandemic.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill said he expects the 200 delegates to discuss the crisis state of Alberta’s health care system, bargaining in the K12 sector, and the upcoming provincial election.

“Alberta has suffered hard times since electing the UCP in 2019,” said Gill. “Doctors are leaving, Emergency Room wait times have grown dangerously long, and ambulance services are in crisis mode.”

“In schools, support staff have not seen a wage increase in eight years and they are starting to leave.”

“Danielle Smith and the UCP have made all of these problems worse,” said Gill. “We need to fire the UCP and start fixing these problems with a new government.”

CUPE represents 715,000 members across Canada and 40,000 members in Alberta. Alberta members include workers in the municipal, education, post-secondary, health care, social services and airline sectors.

Convention highlights

Wednesday, March 22

11:05     Address by Rory Gill CUPE Alberta President
13:45     Address by Mark Hancock, CUPE National President

Thursday, March 23

13:30     Address by Gil McGowan, President of the AB Federation of Labour

Friday, March 24

10:40     Address by Christina Grey, Alberta NDP labour critic

WestJet Cabin Crew union responds to Cabin Crew announcement

CALGARY — Alia Hussain, President of CUPE Local 4070 (WestJet Cabin Crew) issued the following statement about the approval of the Sunwing acquisition by WestJet.

On behalf of the 4,000 Flight Attendants and Cabin Crew Members working for the WestJet group of companies, we are pleased that there is now certainty about the purchase of Sunwing by WestJet.

While we are cautiously optimistic about the growth of WestJet, there remains a number of important unanswered questions. We need to know more about WestJet’s ability to finance this project, and we want to better understand how this will impact the working lives of our members.  We will continue to push WestJet for answers on these questions.

Our members work for, and even celebrate, the successes of the company. But employees need more information to fully understand what the impacts will be.


Premier Danielle Smith produced a cynical, ineffective pre-election budget

Edmonton – “Danielle Smith’s budget pretends to provide help for families, but every penny offered up is taken away the day after the next election,” said CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill.

“Support for big business carries on, but support for power bills, gas bills and other affordability measures are over June 1st, one day after Danielle Smith needs support from voters.”

Gill says that with the chaos in health care, more funding is needed to make up for cuts in previous years. “The amount Smith has offered doesn’t even cover inflation and population growth. This means less health care, more chaos.”

“Cutting $100 million from the drug program is the same kind of cruelty Danielle Smith showed when she blamed cancer victims for their diagnosis. How are they supposed to recover if they can’t pay the bills Premier?”

Gill was particularly upset that the budget offered little for K-12 education, coming up $1.6 billion short of what is needed to hold the line.

“Education workers in this province have not seen a wage increase in eight years,” said Gill. “We can’t expect students to learn when staff are abandoning the field due to poverty-level wages. The average Educational Assistant in Alberta makes less than $28,000 annually.

Gill noted that Danielle Smith has allocated more funding to build private and charter schools than Public, Catholic and Francophone schools combined.

If this is the best Danielle Smith can offer, it’s more clear than ever that we need to Fire the UCP and put Rachel Notley into the Premier’s office. We need a Premier in touch with the real concerns of Albertans.

Unions win pension fight with for-profit health-care corporation

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are encouraged by a Labour Relations Board decision that private companies must abide by existing collective bargaining agreements.

EDMONTON – Alberta health-care workers will keep their pensions even if their jobs are privatized by the government.

The Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) says DynaLIFE, the private company taking over certain public lab services, has an obligation to uphold terms in collective bargaining agreements – including pensions.

“We have successfully defeated an attempt by a for-profit health-care corporation to undermine the benefits of our members and the rights of union workers in Alberta,” said HSAA President Mike Parker. “DynaLIFE knew it had an obligation to keep health-care professionals whole as a part of the sale. It tried to get out of it to make more profit and has now been told it must honour our members’ collective agreement.”

“This is a major victory,” added CUPE Alberta president, Rory Gill. “Everyone deserves a dignified retirement and corporations looking to profit off of the sale of public services cannot do it on the backs of workers and their pensions.”

DynaLIFE argued providing pensions for these 900 workers is “not a fit,” “unsuitable” and “impossible” for a private, for-profit employer. The ALRB was not swayed. HSAA and CUPE are now focused on getting Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) members to accept DynaLIFE. If that doesn’t happen, DynaLIFE must work with us to find a similar, defined pension plan for employees.

“This whole process is an example of the importance of unions in protecting the financial security of members and advocating on their, and all workers’, behalf,” added Parker.

Gill points out it is particularly gross DynaLIFE attempted this when its major shareholder is the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System – a pension provider. “This is a precedent-setting decision and our unions will be working hard to ensure these members and all public sector workers keep their pensions regardless of their employer.”

Parker and Gill agree… the way to avoid harming public sector workers and threatening their financial security is to end failed experiments in privatization.

HSAA and CUPE represent more than 36,000 highly-trained and dedicated health-care professionals in Alberta.


Firing of Athabasca President ‘politics over education’

Further labour unrest will follow if UCP keeps interfering in the university

EDMONTON – The union representing academic instructors at Athabasca University (AU) is coming to the defence of fired President Peter Scott.

CUPE Local 3911 Co-Chair Ann Reynolds called Scott’s dismissal ‘shocking and disappointing’ and noted that the UCP government move had more to do with rural politics than academic standards.

“The UCP prioritized politics over advanced education by trying to force AU employees to relocate to Athabasca, even though the town doesn’t have room.”

“At the same time the world is moving to remote worksites, the UCP is trying to take away Athabasca University’s greatest advantage, we’ve been delivering online learning for decades.”

Reynolds says the replacement of Scott and members of the AU board will result in more appointments of UCP members and others with little background in running online academic institutions.

“Dr. Scott is an expert in online and open education. He vigorously protested using a university to further the UCP’s political agenda. He was fired without cause while dealing with the death of his wife,” said Reynolds. “This is undue interference in the running of Athabasca University and is a danger to the needed arm’s length relationship with the government of the day.”

Reynolds said CUPE Local 3911 members have always worked from home few if any will move to Athabasca. “Firing Dr. Scott will intensify the problems that exist and will create labour unrest.”

CUPE Local 3911 is the only trade union in Alberta consisting wholly of academic instructors. We are part-time, hired to teach specific courses in our academic fields under the direction of faculty coordinators, with whom we have the same credentials. This arrangement allows Athabasca University the economic flexibility to have a low ratio of faculty to students while still maintaining academic rigour.

“Greedy and hypocritical”

Company owned by a pension plan taking away its own workers’ pension plan

CALGARY – DynaLIFE Labs, a company contracted by the Alberta government to privatize health care services, is trying to take away a pension plan from its employees. The twist? DynaLIFE’s majority shareholder is the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), a pension plan serving over half a million Canadians.

In 2022, Alberta’s UCP government awarded DynaLIFE the contract to take over Alberta Precision Lab services. Over 1,000 employees were transferred in early December to the private company. Those employees were members of the Alberta based, Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP). The employees are represented by CUPE and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

DynaLIFE has made an application to the Alberta Labour Relations Board asking that the terms of the collective agreement covering the transferred employees be changed to remove them from their defined benefit pension plan and replace it with an RRSP contribution plan at a much lower value.

This is déjà vu for some of these employees, who lost pension service when the Alberta government privatized lab services to the same company in 1996. After private lab services proved inadequate to serve the public, the government brought the labs back in-house in 2005.

“If Alberta conservatives can’t understand that public health care is better, the least they can do is not mess with the retirements of people who spend their lives caring for Alberta patients,” said CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill. “The fact this is being done a second time, by a company owned by a pension plan, is galling, uncaring, and just greedy.”

Gill is a member of the Sponsor Board of LAPP and says there is nothing preventing DynaLIFE from applying to be an employer with that plan.

CUPE Ontario is a sponsor of OMERS, and over 125,000 CUPE members working for Ontario municipalities, school districts and healthcare facilities are active members of the pension plan.

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn says he is appalled to hear about a company owned by OMERS booting workers off their pension plan.

“OMERS board members and their CEO will be hearing from CUPE,” said Hahn. “You can’t be a defined benefit pension plan, encouraging employers and unions to come on board, and invest in anti-worker companies.”

“You either believe in providing a decent, dignified retirement to workers, or you do not. And right now, it looks like OMERS and DynaLIFE do not believe that. That’s hypocritical and unjustifiable.”


Alpha House employees achieve first union contract


Early acrimony led to productive negotiations: CUPE

CALGARY – Employees at a Calgary social services agency have a union contract after a hard organizing battle with accusations of unfair labour practices.

Alpha House is a not-for-profit society providing addiction and housing services to people in Calgary and Lethbridge. About 300 employees joined CUPE in the late spring of 2021.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill said that after initial battles with Alpha House during the unionization drive, bargaining proceeded respectfully and employees were able to achieve sought-out scheduling changes.

“With a collective agreement in place, these employees now have the schedules they need to have a better work-life balance,” said Gill.

Gill noted that the social services sector is known for low pay, long hours and unrealistically unsafe working environments. “Our new members have an uphill battle making life better for themselves and their clients – but they’ve taken a few important steps in the right direction.”

CUPE is Canada’s largest union with over 715,000 members nationwide.

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.