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.”

 

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

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.

 

 

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.”

 

Wood Buffalo Housing bans public from “public meeting”

FORT MCMURRAY – Last night Wood Buffalo Housing (WBH) closed its public meeting and relocated behind closed and locked doors in a transparent attempt to avoid coming face to face with its employees.

The corporation locked out employees on May 10th as part of an attempt to replace long time employees with fly-by-night contractors.

“The meeting was scheduled for a public location and the board moved it without notice,” said CUPE Local 1505 President Judy Collier.  “Their ‘public’ meeting ended up at the provincial building behind locked doors.”

Union representatives learned of the move and set up a picket line in front of the building hoping to have a few words with board members as they crossed the line.

“Most board members, including Chair Maggie Farrington, crossed the picket line without agreeing to talk to their employees,” said Collier.

Collier said one board member did stop to talk and indicated that he thought management was trying to meet with the union’s bargaining team.

“He looked surprised when I informed him that they were not trying to meet with us,” Collier said.

Collier said employees wanted to let board members know fourteen (14) management positions cost WBH a similar amount to thirty-nine (39) union positions they are trying to replace with fly-by-night contractors.  CUPE asked WBH management to confirm these numbers on June 6 and has not yet received a response.

“Many residents have reached out to us with stories and pictures of unmanaged properties that are falling into disrepair, including garbage cans overflowing, unsightly yards that haven’t been mowed in weeks,” said Collier. “One resident even got stuck in a broken elevator.”

Collier said residents are complaining that it is nearly impossible to get in touch with WBH regarding their concerns.

“Our members care about the residents,” she said. “They just want to go back to work and serve the residents and their community.”

Wood Buffalo Housing members take to the radio

FORT MCMURRAY – CUPE members locked out by their employer at Wood Buffalo Housing are featured in two new radio ads that went on the air today in the Fort McMurray region.

The ads feature a maintenance person, a housekeeper and a groundskeeper, all of whom have effectively lost their jobs to fly-by-night contractors retained by the housing corporation.

“Like all the locked out employees, these three are part of our community, and they want to work for their residents,” said CUPE 1505 President Judy Collier.  “They are standing up for Wood Buffalo in a way their employer is not.”

For more information visit www.standforwoodbuffalo.ca.

Hear the radio ads here and here.

 

CUPE response to Onex deal

CUPE response to Onex deal

CALGARY – The union representing almost 4,000 cabin crew members at WestJet and Encore expressed guarded optimism about the company’s sale to Onex.  However, CUPE 4070 President Chris Rauenbusch expressed some concern about the future of the employee share holder plan.

“WestJet is a Canadian business success story, building from a small regional carrier to one of the world’s foremost airlines,” said Rauenbusch.  “We hope Onex will continue to develop WestJet to its full potential as an airline industry leader.”

“The good news is that Onex is looking to maintain WestJet as a Calgary based airline. They’ve committed to no job losses and to WestJet’s expansion plans. We will hold them to that promise.”

“We are concerned about what this deal means to the future of the employee share purchase plan, which is uncertain at the moment,” said Rauenbusch. “As employees without a pension plan, many Cabin Crew members rely upon their shares for a dignified retirement. “

Rauenbusch said CUPE will attempt to resolve the employee shareholder issue in bargaining for a new collective agreement, which has been underway since April.

Contact: Lou Arab
Communications Representative
780.271.2722

Long-time City of Calgary foreman elected new president of CUPE Alberta

LETHBRIDGE, AB – Delegates at CUPE Alberta’s annual convention elected Rory Gill to be their new provincial president, Thursday, wrapping up the three-day event.

“I’m very honoured that members elected me to further the mission of CUPE to protect workers’ rights, promote social justice and better our society,” said Gill, shortly after his acclamation.

“My priorities as president are to help in any possible way to re-elect Rachel Notley and Alberta’s NDP Government, work to enhance communication and cooperation, and work to organize the unorganized within the public service in Alberta.”

He replaces Marle Roberts, who retired after serving eight years as CUPE Alberta’s president.

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made,” said Roberts, to a standing ovation. “And I’m humbled and grateful for the support and friendship you’ve given me over that time.”

Gill worked in the public sector with the City of Calgary for over 20 years. He first joined the City as a seasonal parks labourer in 1997 and worked in several different capacities until he was promoted to foreman in the Parks Department in 2000.

In 2006, Gill became active in his local, CUPE 709 – the Calgary Civic Foremen’s Union, where he served as a job steward. He went on to become a Trustee for the local in 2010, joined the local Executive in 2011, and was later elected as the local’s Vice-President in 2012 and then the President in 2014.

Rory has been active with CUPE Alberta Division and attended its conventions since 2011.  In 2016, he was elected to the division’s Executive Committee as Calgary Area Vice President.  The following year, he was elected Southern General Vice President and served in that position until he was elected President of CUPE Alberta in March 2019.

Gill is originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, though he primarily grew up in Calgary. He is the proud father of two sons.

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Contact:

Rory Gill, President, CUPE AB Division

403.988.6966

Fort McMurray managers get overtime for emergency but front line workers left out – CUPE

FORT MCMURRAY – The union representing front line Fort McMurray municipal workers is crying foul after Wood Buffalo municipal councillors voted today to reward non-unionized staff overtime during the spring fire evacuation.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, Alberta Division is upset that management staff will be paid overtime for all time worked over 44 hours per week, while CUPE members had to work up to twelve hours per day at regular pay rates.

CUPE Alberta President Marle Roberts pointed out that the motion passed before council today says unionized employees must be paid according to their collective agreement, which has special provisions for emergency work. According to those provisions, regular overtime rules do not apply, and staff must work up to 12 hours per day at regular wages.

“Council rightly recognizes that municipal staff worked very hard during the fire and evacuation,” said Roberts. “But they are enforcing two sets of rules, one where managers get rewards, while the union staff don’t.”

CUPE bus drivers, who have a different contract, are not bound by the 12-hour rule – although the city tried to enforce it in the middle of the fire.

Roberts said even with the more punitive overtime rates, most CUPE members have not been paid overtime wages for work done in May and June.

“We’ve been repeatedly raising these issues with city managers and we’ve been shut down every time,” said Roberts. “We can’t get any issues resolved, and our members are furious.”

“This is just an additional slap in the face to people who moved heaven and earth during the fire to look after their community.”

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Contact: Marle Roberts, President CUPE Alberta

780.918.3061

 

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