Fleury told convention delegates that while revenues are tight, CUPE is allocating resources with an eye to giving locals the power to make gains at the bargaining table.
“CUPE is a very strong union,” said Fleury. “In CUPE we know how to mobilize our members and how to resist attacks.”
Fleury praised CUPE workplace stewards as key to a strong union. “Union Stewards talk with our members and back them up every day,” said Fleury. “We must support and mentor new stewards, we must send them to union education classes, we must tell them why we are fighting to raise every CUPE wage to at least nineteen dollars per hour. Why we fight to make sure that we have more full-time permanent jobs. Why we need pensions for every CUPE member.”
Fleury reminded delegates that changes made to the National Strike and Defense Funds at will Increase CUPE’s campaign power, allowing more funds for local, regional, and National campaign initiatives.
“Our priority is always to make sure that the picket lines stay strong and that we win the strike,” said Fleury. “We hope that this will help our members who are not working the traditional nine-to-five full-time job – mainly our precarious workers.”
Finally, Fleury said that with a large number of new staff, CUPE is investing in training.
“We have increased the funds for the mentoring and trainee rep program,” said Fleury. “This is especially important because now, fifty-four percent of our staff have less than five years on the job. This is a time of big staff changes.”
“Alone we can only do so much. But when we work together and support each other, we have the people power and the resources to win many fights.”
“CUPE is renewing our commitment to achieving safer workplaces – for our members and for all workers, in Canada and around the globe.
Hancock remembered the lives of CUPE members and other workers killed on the job in the last year, and spoke about the death of four workers in 2009 who fell off a scaffolding outside a Toronto apartment building because they were not properly secured. Because of a bill passed in 2004, the project manager was sentenced to three and a half years in jail.
It’s not okay for families to lose their loved ones just because they went to work.
“It took 11 years, but with this sentence there is finally a clear message to the bosses,” said Hancock, “You kill a worker, you will be held responsible. You will go to jail. Full stop.”
The CUPE President saluted the Alberta government for passing legislation protecting farm workers under health and safety rules.
“This move wasn’t without controversy. But it was the right thing to do, and I thank Premier Rachel Notley and her NDP government for showing the leadership and courage to take a stand for the health and safety of all workers.”
Hancock went further with his praise for the Notley government, saying last year’s Alberta election ‘has shown the rest of the country what was possible.”
“The task ahead for Premier Notley and her government is quite frankly daunting,” said Hancock. “Four decades of Conservative rule cannot be fixed overnight.”
Hancock also had words for Alberta’s opposition parties. “The right-wing is working itself into a frenzy calling for wage freezes, privatization of public services, and the cutting of thousands of public sector jobs,” said Hancock. “They argue that Alberta can shrink its way into more prosperous times. They are wrong.”
“We know better. We know that freezing wages and cutting public services isn’t the right answer in a challenging economy.”
“We must help Premier Notley protect and strengthen our public services, to help all Albertans get through this economic downturn. We must help her and her government diversify the economy so it is not so vulnerable to the boom and crashes of the oil and gas industry.”
CUPE President Mark Hancock took time from in his address to convention to pay tribute to CUPE NS President Mike McNeil, who passed away suddenly this month, only weeks after being selected to the position.
“Mike was a dedicated union activist for most of his life,” said Hancock. “Mike was passionate about union education and as a facilitator he touched the lives of thousands of CUPE members in Nova Scotia.”
“On behalf of all CUPE members, Brother Charles and I have conveyed our deepest sympathies to Mike’s wife Darlene, their three children, all of his family and friends.”
Roberts called on the Notley NDP government to continue efforts to diversify Alberta’s economy from its reliance on oil and gas.
“The price of oil goes up and down. It’s a boom and bust industry. And during the busts, Alberta has few other industries to soften the blow,” said Roberts.
Roberts pointed to many opportunities for new industy in Alberta including “development of renewable energy resources like wind and solar and the development of value added industries that turn oil products into gasoline, plastics and other products ready for the market.”
Roberts blasted opposition Conservative and Wildrose politicians for calling for cuts to public services and the wages of people who provide them.
“The Opposition would have you believe that at a time when people are losing their jobs, the government should freeze wages and lay off public sector workers,” said Roberts. “At this time, we need public services now more than ever. Taking thousands of public servants out of employment will make a bad situation much, much worse.”
Roberts indicated that with an NDP government, labour has a more respectful role in the corridors of power, and indicated that while bargaining was going to be hard as long as oil prices were low, “we are bargaining with a government that respects contracts.”
“The NDP government is listening to what CUPE has to say, and respecting our opinions.”
Roberts pointed to a number of long standing CUPE issues that have been addressed since the NDP came to power, including the cancellation of a hospital lab privatization project, an increase to the minimum wage, a freeze on tuition rates, fairer taxes for middle income earners, and better funding for health care and education.
However, Roberts said there was more for CUPE to accomplish, including winning more control over pension plans and better conditions in Alberta’s seniors care homes.
“Alberta seniors care is still a mess after many years of mismanagement,” said Roberts. “There is a desperate need for more public long term care spaces. Seniors are taking up expensive beds in hospitals because of the lack of space. Among the facilities we do have, there needs to be more staff, better paid staff, and better funded facilities.”
March 8th is International Women’s Day. A day to reflect on our success in building equality for women, and a day to take stock on what issues are next to tackle.
We’ve won some important symbolic victories in the last year – we elected more women to Parliament, and more women to Alberta’s Legislature than ever before. Canada is proceeding with a much needed inquiry into the thousands of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
But there is still much progress to be made.
IWD was originally called “International Working Women’s Day” when it first happened in 1909, as it was called to remember a strike by members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. In that spirit, I want to look at the issues facing working women today.
Canada is still without a national child care plan, something that would make it easier for women to pursue a career and motherhood should they choose to. Child care lifts families out of poverty, as it allows mothers (and all parents) more options to support their families. According to the Globe and Mail, women in Canada make, on average, $8,000 less than men doing an equivalent job.
You can take a small action today – click here to ‘Make a Pledge for Parity’ and be sure to follow-up that pledge with action.