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?”
The following individuals were elected at today’s convention.
Secretary-Treasurer: Colleen Nash (Local 3550)
General Vice President North: Lee-Ann Kalen (Local 1099)
General Vice President South: Troy Killam (Local 40)
Diversity Vice President: Raj Uppal (Local 41)
Area Vice Presidents
Peace River: Tina Robinson (Local 4839)
Ft. McMurray: Danielle Danis (Local 2559)
Northwest: Janet Riopel (Local 1661)
Northeast: Joyce Baker (Local 1606)
Edmonton: Janice Kube (Local 3550)
Red Deer: Brenda Reid (Local 4733)
Calgary: Kelly Spence (Local 8)
Lethbridge: Lawrence Silver (Local 408)
Medicine Hat: Jason Fenske (Local 46)
Alternate Area Vice President
Ft. McMurray: Lynn Fleet (Local 2545)
Trustee 3 Year
Dani Williamson (Local 40)
Rachel Notley promised a government more in tune with the values of Albertans and more respectful of front-line workers.
“After three years of United Conservative scandals and blunders, three years of disrespect, distrust and indifference, we are closer than ever to having a government that stands up for families and actually has the backs of working people,” said Notley.
Notley outlined her plans for K-12 education, of particular interest to CUPE delegates working in that sector. Notley pledged to support children from their earliest learning up to higher education and committed to end the chaos of the last three years.
“More teachers. More educational assistants supporting students with special needs,” pledged Notley. “No more chaos. No more layoffs.”
“We will ensure children have a modern curriculum taught in smaller classrooms.”
Notley took aim at the UCP for Premier Jason Kenney’s privatization of health care. In particular, she slammed Kenney’s comments about ‘union run hospitals.’
“I have a message for Jason Kenney,” said Notley. “CUPE members are better health care, in nursing home rooms, in operating rooms, and in laundry rooms.”
“You deserve a government that respects you for the frontline workers you are.”
Notley promised to reinvest in our public health care system by expanding surgical capacity in the public system, increasing access in rural communities, and addressing backlogs.
“No chaos. No big changes. Just common-sense care,” said Notley. “No more cuts that make your jobs harder or jeopardize patient care, and no more reckless pursuit of privatization.”
CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Candace Rennick used her first address to CUPE Alberta to confirm her support of the fightback against Jason Kenney and the UCP. But she also noted there was still a lot of work to do to change Alberta’s government.
“CUPE National will be there to support you, in every way possible, as you organize for the defeat of the UCP in the 2023 election,” said Rennick.
“We must have thousands of conversations with our members and their voting-age family members. We must explain what Alberta could be with a different government in charge. We must convince members that by voting together they can end the UCP’s reign and set the stage for the change workers need.”
Rennick said that attempts by the UCP to silence unions, like Bill 32, are backfiring because unions are becoming more organized in opposition.
“Jason Kenney thinks he has weakened us through his anti-union laws and his anti-worker budget, but his attacks only serve to strengthen our resolve. While he is struggling for political survival, we will be organizing a union revival.”
Rennick reported that CUPE has added servicing and specialist staff positions, including extending extra staff in Alberta for Bill 32 work, organizing, and a new supernumerary position to provide extra help during this very busy period.
The final issue addressed by Rennick was creating a safe space for members. Rennick reported that CUPE created a safe space working group made up of the women executive members to investigate the problems of discrimination, harassment and bullying within union ranks.
“It is difficult to accept that our organization like other organizations has these problems. But our research, carried out with the assistance of experts, confirms they are widespread,” said Rennick. “The difference between our union and others is we are refusing to sweep the issue under the rug. I am incredibly proud that our working group gave a full and public report to our last national convention.”
“But we are also determined to take preventative steps. This includes finding ways to change the deeply rooted culture that permits and perpetuates this discriminatory, destructive, and anti-democratic behaviour.”
Hancock said right-wing power is built on stoking fear, anger, and frustration.
“Austerity for them is more than just a way to balance the books. It’s how they create scarcity and convince folks there’ll never be enough to go around. It’s how they convince people they have to fight each other for scraps, instead of fighting for the wealthiest to pay their fair share.”
Hancock said he was proud of the efforts of CUPE members in New Brunswick, Manitoba and others who have walked picket lines to fight conservative governments and encouraged Alberta delegates to fight hard against the UCP government.
“Winning the fight against austerity doesn’t just happen because we want it to. Whether it’s your local, your sector, or your sector province-wide, we need to get organized, we need to coordinate, and we need to support each other.”
And even if Jason Kenney is removed from the Premier’s office, Hancock asked delegates to keep pushing for a better government.
“Whether UCP members give Kenney the boot or not, it isn’t going to be enough to replace him with a new face. We need a new party in power.”
“We see it in the polls, we see it in the party fundraising numbers, and we see it and hear it in our conversations with co-workers, friends and family,” said Gill. “Everyone is tired of these guys. We’re tired of the excuses, the lies the poor economy, and the terrible approach to COVID.”
Gill said the leadership review itself is evidence the UCP knows it needs to do everything it can to stay in power.
The President also spoke about the struggles of the last year, with Locals dealing with COVID, vaccine mandates, masks and other pandemic issues.
“I am proud of how CUPE worked to protect our members and the public in these most difficult of times,” said Gill. “Local leaders have had little help from government or employers, but you have all been professional, empathetic, and determined.”
Gill also addressed bargaining issues, with a particular emphasis on the K-12 sector.
“Staff in the K-12 sector have not seen meaningful wage increases in over seven years.
The average Educational Assistant in Alberta makes just $27,495 per year. This is a position that requires a minimum of one year of post-secondary education and is entrusted with the care and education of some of the most vulnerable students in our society.
We need to make the education of our children a profession which attracts the best and the brightest, not chase them away.”
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.”
CUPE Alberta wishes to express our revulsion at the invasion of Ukraine by the Putin government of Russia. The invasion is an act of naked aggression without any reasonable justification. We stand in solidarity with all Ukrainian people and express our admiration at the ability of Ukrainian civilians and military personnel to withstand the Russian advance.
We know our small statement by itself will do little to reverse Putin’s military actions. However, we want to add our voices to the worldwide chorus of people demanding countries like Russia respect the lives and dignity of all peoples.
Alberta’s 2022-23 budget is a master class of deception and gaslighting. It pretends to have a lot of good news, but page after page signals more hardship for the people of the province.
Jason Kenney and the UCP are claiming this is a good news budget because it forecasts a small surplus for the coming fiscal year. This surplus is 100% based on record high gas and oil prices, which are not in the control of any government. It’s hard to imagine how any government wouldn’t balance the books in this context.
A balanced provincial budget does not equal a healthy economy. Alberta has a 9% unemployment rate. Calgary has the highest unemployment rate among major cities.
Kenney and the UCP promised 55,000 new jobs. They are currently 138,000 jobs behind that pace.
And when you look at the budget details, you see a government not committed to the same priorities as Albertans.
Despite record high gas and electric bills, Jason Kenney has offered no relief for power or gas bills. The budget talks about possible gas rebates NEXT year, but only if gas rises to over $6.50 a gigajoule, a price they admit probably won’t happen.
Here are some other details the UCP won’t be spending your money to advertise:
The UCP decided to stop reporting the number of students in Alberta schools. They just won’t tell us. We do know there are 1,000 fewer teachers funded by the government than when the UCP took over in 2019. This year alone, there will be 554 fewer teachers than last year.
There will be $117 million in new school fees and school taxes.
The UCP is cutting $1 billion from municipal capital projects. They are even walking away from matching funds being offered from the Federal government for transit projects.
Health care funding in Alberta is $100 million behind inflation from the start of the Kenney term. And remember, the system had extra costs due to the pandemic. If you include a COVID recovery plan, there’s almost $1B less than 2021-22.
The promised new Red Deer Hospital? Forget it. The UCP budgeted only $139 million over the next three years. The cost of the hospital will be $1.8 billion, at this pace it won’t open for almost 40 years.
There have been $690 million in cuts since UCP took office.
This year, tuition will increase by 10%.
Once again, Jason Kenney and the UCP are not being honest with Albertans. They continue to try and deceive us about the state of the economy, and the mismanagement of public services we depend upon.
There is a little over a year before the next election. Let’s hope Albertans can survive until then.