Conference Reports Aug 30, 2017

Aug 30, 2017

CUPE Ontario Conference 2017

Conference Report – Lynda French- July 18, 2017

It has been 10 years since I had the honour of attending a CUPE Ontario Convention

“Be Bold Be Brave” truly are the best words to describe the CUPE Ontario members who were honored at this convention.

The most noticeable change in CUPE was the amount of strikes CUPE members faced this past year.  These brave folks stood their ground.  It did not matter how cold it got or how wet they were, from a 2 hour strike to several months they stood firm.

During this convention Local 1600 (Toronto Zoo) were on strike, I was very impressed by the solidarity in this Union.  To show support for Local 1600, these folks at convention raised $100,000 for their Strike Fund.  Not only did they raise money, but many offered hours of support for their picket line.

We also participated in rallies, one at the Ministry of Labour for the injured workers, and the second at Toronto City Hall for Local 1600.

The sea of Pink CUPE Flags at both rallies … ASTOUNDING!

From this convention, I have never been more proud to be a member of CUPE as I am now, to see the support that has been given to others was overwhelming.

 

March 4, 2017

OUWCC 2017
 February 23, 2017
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      After a rousing Solidarity Squad rendition of Solidarity Forever, OUWCC 2017 began Thursday evening with an Aboriginal opening and land recognition by Dawn Bellerose, our new Aboriginal Workers Rep. There was a moment of silence, and recognition of the work, and  the loss of Mat Nelson, by Pam Griffin-Hody.
     Sonia Yung, President of Local 4914, Peel Children’s Aid Society, talked about her experiences – challenges, but also pleasant surprises – during their strike from September 2016 until just before Christmas last year. 
      Deena Ladd from the Workers Action Centre talked about the food service workers at York University, who are bargaining  and need support. Please go to york15.ca if you haven’t already, and send a message to President Shoukri.
     Solidarity Squad  performed another song (with some impressive moves!)  to end the evening.
February 24, 2017
     After smudging Friday morning, we were back at it with greetings from John Cartright from Toronto and York Region Labour Council. There was some history, encouragement, and a reminder to keep doing the hard work we do.
     In a panel on funding, Graham Cox, CUPE researcher and ‘smartest man in the room’ discussed (increasingly political) changes to universities and the way they are being funded. Graham’s comment ‘Where are we going to train people to accept precarious work’ hit the nail on the head – the answer being ‘Universities’ as he went on to explain. ‘Disincentivization’ – making less politically desired majors more expensive, to reduce numbers of students in those programs, then blaming students – ‘millennials are lazy’ when it didn’t work. He pointed out that it was not always an ‘evil director,’ but sometimes structural. ‘Directed funding’ – dividing funds for directed use – is an effective way to get out of funding certain areas for political reasons, reducing certain programs … and thinking. Another ‘weasel word’ is calling students ‘learners’ – taking the onus off of universities to actively teach, and expecting ‘learners to access information online.
     Peggy Sattler talked about tuition fees for three different sets of students:
     1.    Domestic – regulated increases ‘to 2018’ (important)
     2.    International – unregulated (which to me says ‘unlimited’)
     3.    Grants for most needy continue.  She made the point that 2018 is the next 
            election.  She made the connection for me that 2018 is when the regulated
            increases end. She also talked about chronic underfunding and differentiation
            policy, and said that in 2015, private funding surpassed private funding. (So,
           ‘publicly assisted’ universities.)
     After lunch break, we did a workshop with Canadian Roots, which is a youth organization that does exchanges across Canada, a youth reconciliation initiative, and a conference (coming up March 27-29, 2017.) Please check out canadianroots.ca for more information.
     We first did a timeline of events over the last few centuries. It was challenging, as some of us thought things happened recently, but they had actually happened decades ago. Next, we looked at and discussed various aspects of the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations. The last part of the workshop was a visualizing exercise to consider our own stereotypes and biases. We were asked to imagine we were getting on a bus full of a variety of people, including a couple holding hands, and tell what we saw. Nearly everyone saw the couple as elderly, white, and heterosexual.
     I joined the breakout group talking about getting more Indigenous studies in our education system. We need to reach out to groups on campus. We could be writing letters to university admin., Professors, etc. to ask for more Indigenous content. We also need to continue learning and passing along the histories of our own communities. Union educationals ie: Learning about First Peoples .
     There was a caucus on sexual violence in the workplace from 5 – 6 pm. A number of campuses have been working on policy around the issue. We’re hoping to gather all of the campuses and their policies to sort through and get best practices on all campuses.
February 25, 2017
     After smudging Saturday morning, we had an issues panel. Chris Sutton, CUPE National’s Health and Safety resource person for CUPE Ontario, talked about violence in the workplace – particularly sexual violence. New policy was implemented January 2017, which meant no input from workers. We can (must) make recommendations. There presently is no separate legislation for universities. We discussed how we need to be cautious about using policies/programs that universities so far have in place. We will be working together across the sector to come up with better ways to deal with the problem. We need to keep in mind that universities have uppermost in their thoughts that they need to limit liability, not so much prevent it from happening or helping the survivors. They find ways to stop complaints from being reported.  York University seems to have the best policy/program, even including a definition of ‘rape culture’, which is absent from other campuses.
     Rajean Hoilett from CFS (Canadian Federation of Students) spoke about the importance of student/worker solidarity. He pointed out that as the largest segment of people on campus, and as people often doing precarious work themselves, they understand and are in a good position to be in solidarity, but also that, often having two and three jobs themselves, can find it difficult to join the fight.
     Graham Cox (SMITR) gave a presentation (with work by Mark Jensen)  on pensions ‘Why Our Pension System is Not Working, and What To Do About It.’ It was pointed out that pensions being looked after ‘by the private sector’ means banks and insurance companies, therefore focused on profits. We need to expand CPP, as that is the pension plan most helpful for more people in times of precarious work.
     Catherine Fife, NDP MPP from Kitchener/Waterloo, talked about precarious work as well as university funding. ‘I’m trying to follow the money.’ She said that there has been a 40% increase in funding to the top level administration on campuses. ’ I feel that our universities are becoming corporations.’$70 million was spent in advertising the proposed ‘Ontario-grown pension plan.  University campuses should not be a part of the problem of precarious work.
     Chandra Pasma talked about the post-secondary task force ‘Precarious Worker’ campaign, with the reminder that the working conditions at universities are the learning – and the living! – conditions for students.  There will be seven Precarious Worker Town Halls, the first in Guelph March 1st at 7 pm at the Italian Canadian Club.
     After lunch we had a panel on supports and resources. Candace Rennick (OD Secretary Treasurer), Anne Healy (Executive Assistant, National Secretary), Graham Cox (National Research/SMITR), and Russ Armstrong (OUWCC coordinator) talked about resources for campaigns and for strike support (financial and non-financial): immediate – flags and whistles, swag, buses and rallies; cost shares, research, social media, etc. as well as scholarships – Bev Smales (for members) and  Lois Hill (for a child of a CUPE member.)
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February 26, 2017
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Action Plan:
We adopted a four-part action plan on Sunday morning, including:
1.    Bargaining: Coordinated bargaining (end date 2019);
Develop outreach tools for solidarity actions; sort out expiry dates, common language, etc.; continue developing a database re: who, where and when Locals are bargaining to support coordination.
2.    Funding: Strengthen and support Cross-Campus Alliances; Develop educational materials re: changes to PSE funding and impacts on working conditions; campaign on Strategic Mandate Agreement changes; continue working  with CFS and OCUFA to build common campaigns on 2018 funding model priorities through a Ontario University & Colleges Coalition.
3.    Equity: Campaigns – develop campaigns with Aboriginal community organizations on representative workforce and hiring on campuses; bargaining – create workforce composition study language for coordinated bargaining; Political Action – build support for mandatory education on Canadian history specific to indigenous peoples.
4.    Issues:
Sexual violence – Work with health and safety committees to address issues within current legislation; with Cross Campus Alliances to collect and centralize policies to improve supports re: prevention, reporting, etc. on university campuses.
Pensions – work to expand CPP and coverage of the workplace pension plans, and defend defined benefit pension plans.
Precarious work – work with MPPs Fife and Sattler to promote the petition on changing workplace laws to protect precarious workers.
Resolutions – there were five or six resolutions brought forward (most of them from our Local) regarding making our ORO a better place to work in and use more fully, around support for Locals – we passed a resolution that was about a task force to look at servicing Locals in conciliation or strike position, around labour laws, and around chronically underfunding, with no accountability for senior administration..  All passed unanimously.
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     Election of Employment Equity Rep: Stephanie Villers was acclaimed.
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     New business:
Saturday March 4th, there will be a number of protests to rally against a group who will be out in force. They are some ‘pretty nasty white supremacists.’ (Toronto at 11 am, not sure about other times or locations.)
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There are a few dates to be aware of re: possible strike dates.
1.    Brock University – March 3rd
2.    Carleton University – March 6th
3.    Guelph CUPE 1334 – March 13th
There are 20 Collective Agreements coming to the table in 2017, so we are setting the bar.