Approximately 150 delegates from CUPE Alberta Convention participated in a noisy rally in downtown Fort McMurray to support Wood Buffalo municipal employees embroiled in a difficult round of bargaining.
“The rally today was to express frustration with the city and their bargaining position,” said CUPE 1505 President Craig Milley. “They’ve given workers five pages of concessions. They talk about how they value front-line workers, but they don’t live up to those words.
The Local has been in mediation for over a year and Milley says the City is being untruthful when speaking about negotiations.
“The city needs to start bargaining fairly, without the small print and hidden concessions. They need to treat all employees as equals.”
The Executive Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress addressed CUPE Alberta’s convention with news of successes at the federal level.
“In just the last two years, the CLC has won major victories for workers, including 10 paid sick days and pay equity language in the federal sector,” said Vipond. “We have lobbied for and won dental care and we are a few days away from pharmacare. Canada finally has a National Childcare Policy.”
Victories aside, Vipond noted there is still a lot of work to do. The affordability crisis is hurting workers harder than most and noted that the labour movement is working to change this.
“We have been lobbying hard for the federal government to implement measures that will curb corporate greed, tax appropriately and lift the burden of the rising cost of living off our shoulders,” said Vipond. “We are working towards federal policies that will better protect workers’ incomes, including improvements to Employment Insurance and a national pharmacare program.”
Speaking out about governments who ‘refer to front-line workers as heroes while refusing to recognize their real value’ CUPE Secretary-Treasurer Candace Rennick encouraged delegates to fight for better wages and working conditions for all, and in particular for the lowest paid.
“Raising the wage and benefits floor, is the best way to ensure that the quality of public services improves,” said Rennick.
Rennick said the first step towards improving the lives of Alberta workers has to be changing the government in the provincial election on May 29th.
“We sure need big change in Alberta—we need Rachel Notley as premier.”
“Danielle Smith revealed her vision of what health care should be. She said maybe Albertans should start paying for visits to the doctor. She mused about charging patients a portion of the cost of major surgeries” said Rennick. “She is not a person to trust—not with our health, and not with our lives.”
After the election, Rennick told delegates to work hard to gain ground at the bargaining table. And she pledged that CUPE would provide the financial support to achieve those goals. Rennick pointed to her first budget as Secretary-Treasurer as setting the stage for those battles.
“Every new available dollar has gone to increase staffing positions and programs across the country,” said Rennick. “National programs and services that you count on are strengthened. Support for provincial divisions is going up and new staff positions are being put in place in every region of the country including Alberta.”
Rennick also mentioned the CUPE Safe Union Spaces Working Group addressing harassment and gender-based discrimination and violence within CUPE.
“Making our union safer for all—is a collective responsibility that involves all of us. It is an ongoing responsibility, one that won’t have an endpoint, but one that will make us stronger.”
CUPE National President Mark Hancock quoted the Greek philosopher Pericles in his address to the CUPE Alberta convention to make the point that CUPE members have to engage in the upcoming Alberta provincial election.
“Danielle Smith is hoping no one is paying attention,” said Hancock. “Her plan to crush public health care and gamble Albertans’ pensions only works if everyday people like us aren’t paying attention.”
“That’s precisely why it’s our job to sound the alarm, to get organized, and to fight back.”
Hancock pointed to union victories in New Brunswick and Ontario where CUPE members fought off conservative government attacks on public services and education. Hancock said he was particularly proud of the 55,000 education workers who fought education cuts and made Premier Doug Ford reverse course.
“It reminded us that even when our backs are against the wall, there is nothing stronger than the collective power of CUPE members and working people.”
Hancock listed the ways Danielle Smith and the UCP have been waging war on Alberta workers and took particular attention to the fact Smith wants to take Alberta out of the Canada Pension Plan.
“I wouldn’t trust Danielle Smith and the UCP to manage a Tim Horton’s drive-thru, never mind the retirement security of over four million Albertans.”
“We have to seize this opportunity to step up our fight, to engage our rank and file, and to lead our members into the fight.”
“If Danielle Smith has gets a democratic mandate, she’s going to cut your job,” said Gill. “She will gut your pension, she will ruin your health, overcrowd your schools, charge you more for energy, she’ll even charge you for health care.”
“We’re not making this up. These are all things she’s either talked about openly or started to put in place.”
Gill reported that CUPE has been fighting the UCP for four years and is ready for the election campaign. CUPE has advertisements on the airways, plans and resources to talk to members and encourage them to work in local NDP campaigns.
Gill pledged his personal support for Rachel Notley and the NDP. “Every problem we face as a union will be worse if Danielle Smith gets four years,” said Gill. “On the flip side, every problem we face as a union will improve if we elect Rachel Notley and the NDP.”
Specifically, Rachel Notley and the NDP have promised:
- Fair and respectful bargaining for public sector workers, including the K-12 workers who have not gotten a wage increase in seven years.
- New schools, hospitals, and better-funded post-secondary institutions.
- A plan to give one million Albertans access to a family medical team
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.
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
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.
“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.
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.