Denied an opportunity to voice your concerns

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As some of you may know, WCB Leadership has created a Recovery Planning Committee to assist with the WCB operationally coming back online as Manitoba’s Public Health unit lessens the Covid-19 restrictions.

Your union was notified of the creation of this committee at the same time and by the same process that all staff were informed, through a company-wide email as part of a daily COVID-19 update. This surprised us but, unfortunately, did not shock us.  Continue reading

Resuming “normal” operations

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In the spirit of openness and transparency, I would like to share with you, our members, a letter that I forwarded today to the WCB’s Chief Financial Officer, Andria McCaughan, regarding the organization’s plans to resume “normal” business operations. This planning process is proceeding without representation from your Union, and we feel that this is a missed opportunity to ensure our members’ voices are represented and heard during this important planning phase.  Continue reading

State of the union update

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STATE OF THE UNION UPDATE
To the membership of CUPE Local 1063

Despite finding ourselves in unusual and stressful times due to the COVID-19 crisis, I still feel it’s important for us to discuss a number developments and concerns that have come up over the past year that have an impact on all members.

Last Round of Bargaining
Following a long and grueling 30-plus months of bargaining, the resounding rejection of two proposed agreements, and the narrow acceptance of a third, we finally achieved a Collective Agreement in the Fall of 2019.

Some minimal gains were made, but nothing that truly recognizes the efforts that you, as employees, have put in to provide great service and help this organization meet its corporate goals. While the outcome was disappointing, even more disappointing was the Employer’s attitude and position throughout the bargaining process. This was characterized by their refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue and their unwillingness to provide a rationale for their position on various issues.

I want to thank all of you for your interest and engagement throughout the bargaining process. Your attendance at the bargaining meetings and your input throughout the process was crucial to our ability to maintain a strong and unified voice. I also want to thank you for your courage in repeatedly sending the message through your votes that you would not be taken for granted and were ready to fight for a fairer deal.

Top 30 Employer?
It’s ironic that in a year when the employer showed a persistent unwillingness to recognize the value of its employees, in 2019 the WCB was once again named one of Manitoba’s Top 30 Employers.

An article outlining why the WCB received this award stated that: “The WCB has placed a higher priority on striving to meet the safety and health of its members. It’s one of the reasons the WCB was recently recognized as one of Manitoba’s Top Employers for the ninth year in a row. Our Strategy to keep Manitoba workplaces safe and healthy includes our own employees. They’re a big reason for our success and it’s important that they work in an environment where they feel safe, valued and respected.”

The article goes on to say, “Consistent with the WCB’s prevention approach, mental health is a critical component of overall safety and health for staff. Resiliency workshops, mental health first aid training are offered. We recognize that psychological health is just as important and this is reflected in our approach to keeping our own staff safe and healthy.”

Those are nice words, but they are not reflected in what we see happening every day. I could recount many instances of managers intimidating employees. In one unit, we have had two employees quit and three transfer out because management showed no intention of addressing the mental health concerns arising from treatment by their manager. When the union raised these issues and even filed a grievance for one employee, our Top 30 Employer defended the manager and blamed the employee.

Quite some time ago, Mental Health First Aid training was offered. Employees signed up and completed this training. What has happened since? After the training, the names of all those who completed this training were to be posted so that all staff could approach one of these people trained in Mental Health First Aid to assist them. To date, there has been no follow through on this initiative.

In explaining how the WCB became a Top 30 employer, the Employer noted that they recognize the importance of psychological health and safety. If so, they have very strange ways of showing it.

Among the other reasons cited by the selection committee for the WCB being recognized as a Top 30 Employer is that they conduct a survey of their employees every two years. Not true. The last employee survey was conducted in early 2017.

You really have to wonder what this employer is telling the Top 30 Employer selection committee, or how much due diligence the committee does in verifying these claims.

Exec Connect
Many of you attended the recent Exec Connect, the first one held in three years. When asked at the event about why it had not been held for so long, the President and CEO said that it had been a difficult time with the negotiations taking place. Difficult times are precisely when real leaders show up.

The communications leading up the event stated that “There will be plenty of opportunity to ask any member of the EMC questions. If you’d like to submit your question in advance, please email them and your question will be provided to the appropriate EMC member.”

Some of you submitted written questions beforehand. One question (regarding the parking list) received something approaching a meaningful answer, another was partially answered, and the rest of the questions were ignored.

I recommend that in the future, members not submit questions in advance of events like Exec Connect, but instead ask them in person or have someone ask them at the event. This is your best chance for at least having the question recognized and answered in some way.

Employee Survey
Another issue raised at the Exec Connect was the fact that, while the new Corporate Strategy commits to actions to improve employee engagement, we have not had an employee survey in several years, which leaves the employer with little information to guide these actions. It was clear from the Employer’s response that they have no intention of undertaking a survey.

Your Union has therefore decided to take the lead and has contracted with an independent outside firm to conduct an employee survey.

The results from this survey will help gauge the level of employee engagement and help to identify specific employee concerns. All information collected will be held in strict confidence. Your input will be combined with that of others, and none of the answers will be attributed to you personally. When the survey is issued it will be sent to your home email address, so please ensure that the Local has your home email address and a telephone number where you can be reached.

Preparing for Bargaining
Because of the time taken to settle the previous agreement, the next round of negotiations will begin very soon in March 2021. As always, we will be seeking your input on concerns you would like to see brought forward in the next round of bargaining. We will also be reaching out to ask for members’ help with various aspects related to the upcoming contract negotiations. There is plenty of work to be done and plenty of ways to get involved.

Given the Employer’s approach to the previous negotiations, and the fact that the membership soundly rejected two contract offers and very narrowly accepted a third, we know that we need to be prepared for any eventuality, including job action. The lessons learned in the last round of bargaining will not be lost on us going forward.

As I mentioned earlier, we recognize that this is a stressful and unprecedented time for all of us, because of the COVID-19 crisis in which we find ourselves, but also because of the difficulties we have experienced in bargaining for a fair agreement for you, our members. Please know that your Union is fighting on your behalf to ensure fairness, and we are working to make sure that your efforts and work are recognized by the Employer. I ask all of you to stay engaged and involved, and we commit to keeping you informed and always ensuring your voices are heard.

In Solidarity
Dennis E. Kshyk
President, CUPE Local 1063

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Putting employees’ well being before politics – Proposed reduction in work hours

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Earlier today, Premier Brian Pallister suggested that public sector employees deemed non-essential will need to work part-time to help divert funds to front-line services in the province. One scenario he proposed included employees working two days a week and applying for Employment Insurance (EI) to help offset the other three days not worked. He proposed this as a way to avoid layoffs and to help the province address some of its financial challenges as it deals with reduced sources of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Local 1063 COVID-19 Q & A

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CUPE LOCAL 1063 

COVID-19 Q & A

In the past week we have received many questions and concerns from members regarding their health and safety, protection of their salary and benefits, and many other issues. We have tried to respond to these concerns as best we can given the information we had from the Employer. We have also continually advocated on behalf of members to ensure they are not negatively affected by this situation and the measures taken in response to it. We have made some progress and we will continue these efforts on your behalf.  Continue reading

Winnipeg General Strike – Labour’s Revolt

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Beginning promptly at 11:00 a.m., Thursday, 15 May 1919, between 25,000 and 30,000 Winnipeg workers walked out on a general strike. Work stopped quickly at the big railway shops and yards across the city, while and all factory production ceased. Winnipeg had no mail, streetcars, taxis, newspapers, telegrams, telephones, gasoline, or milk delivery. Most restaurants, retail stores, and even barber shops closed. Police, fire fighters, and employees of the water works shocked and frightened many in Winnipeg by joining the strike. Canadians across the country wondered what was going on in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg General Strike would last six weeks until it was finally brought to an end by the tragic events of Bloody Saturday.

Much was at stake in the strike. Conflict between the labour movement and local employers had been brewing in Winnipeg for many years. Indeed, in 1918, the city had witnessed a smaller general strike that ended in partial victory for the strikers. Relations between labour and governments and courts also had been poisoned over the years. Union leaders viewed governments with mistrust, arguing the state came too quickly to the aid of employers in industrial disputes. Indeed, they complained that Winnipeg had become know as “Injunction City” because of the frequency that local courts granted employers injunctions against strikes and picketing.

In the spring of 1919, Winnipeg was a hot bed of militant unionism and radical politics. Sympathy for creating the One Big Union (OBU) was strong and interest in socialist ideas was intensifying. In this charged atmosphere of class relations, councils of unions among the metal and building trades entered negotiations with their respective employers’ federations. The workers’ demands included higher wages and union recognition. Employers simply refused to negotiate with the metal and building trades councils. This rejection propelled the explosive issues of union recognition and workers’ rights to collective bargaining to the fore.

When no resolution to the conflicts appeared possible, the metal and building trades councils asked the bigger Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council (WTLC) for help. On May 6, the WTLC met and decided to poll all of its members on whether or not to launch a general strike to support the metal and building trades workers. On May 13, the WTLC announced the results: over 11,000 in favour of striking and fewer than 600 opposed. The overwhelming vote for strike action surprised even the most optimistic labour leaders. They expected solid support from railway, foundry, and factory workers, but were greatly surprised by the equally strong support coming from other unions. For example, city police voted 149 to 11 for strike action, fire-fighters 149 to 6, water works employees 44 to 9, postal workers 250 to 19, cooks and waiters 278 to 0, and tailors 155 to 13. With this overwhelming endorsement in hand, the WTLC declared a general strike to begin on May 15, at 11:00 a.m. A large Central Strike Committee was created to oversee the conduct of the strike.

Employers and local government officials wasted little time in responding to labour’s challenge. They established the Citizens’ Committee of 1000, a group of Winnipeg’s wealthiest manufacturers, lawyers, bankers, and politicians. The Citizens’ Committee ignored the strikers’ basic demands for improved wages and union recognition, concentrating instead on a campaign to discredit the labour movement. It branded the strikers as Bolsheviks and “alien scum.” It declared the strike a revolutionary conspiracy. The Citizens’ Committee had no evidence to support such charges, but used them as a means to avoid conciliation.

As word of the general strike spread across the country, workers in other locales declared solidarity with the Winnipeg strikers. Sympathy strikes were called in Brandon, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Regina, Vancouver, New Westminster, Victoria, and in as many as 20 other towns.

Worried by heightened tensions in Winnipeg and across the country, the federal government decided to intervene. Several cabinet ministers travelled to Winnipeg to meet with local government officials and the Citizens’ Committee. They refused requests from the Strike Committee for similar consultations. On the advice of these cabinet ministers, the federal government aggressively supported the employers. Federal employees were ordered back to work or faced dismissal. Then, the Federal Immigration Act was amended quickly so that British-born immigrants could be deported and the Criminal Code’s definition of sedition broadened. These changes were undertaken in conjunction with the arrest of ten strike leaders. All these actions were taken to intimidate the strikers into submission. Nevertheless, the strike continued.

On Saturday, June 21, thousands of strikers and their sympathizers gathered in downtown Winnipeg to protest the arrest of their leaders. The Mayor called on the North West Mounted Police to disperse the crowds. In the ensuing confrontation, two strikers were killed and at least 30 injured. As the crowd scattered onto nearby streets and alleyways it was met by several hundred “special police” deputized by the city during the strike. Armed with baseball bats and wagon spokes supplied by local retailers, the “specials” beat the protesters. Soon the army was also on the streets, patrolling with machine-guns mounted on their vehicles. On Thursday, June 26, fearing yet more violence, strike leaders declared an end to the strike.

The end of the Winnipeg General Strike did little to bring labour peace to Canada in the summer of 1919; in fact, turmoil lasted into 1920. In the coalmines of Alberta and Nova Scotia confrontations continued into the mid-1920s, but labour’s postwar revolt had ended for the most part by the early 1920s. It was the dark clouds of a post-World War I depression rolling across the country in the autumn of 1920 that proved to be the turning point in business-labour relations. Once again, the labour movement confronted a combination of rapidly rising unemployment and aggressive campaigns by business and governments to discredit it. The OBU and the industrial solidarity it represented received the most determined opposition from labour’s opponents. In this battle, more conservative craft unions threw their lot in with the OBU’s adversaries.

At this time, several new elements entered anti-union campaigns. In addition to the time-honoured use of such tactics as firings and black listings, corporate and government leaders used the Red Scare, or so-called communist threat, to discredit union organizing. In another development, some employers established shop committees, which they controlled carefully, within their factories. In Quebec, the Catholic Church took these measures one step farther and established its own trade union. In 1921, the Church created the Canadian and Catholic Confederation of Trade Unions. Catholic priests were assigned to oversee union affairs and ensure that secular unionism was kept at bay.

Labour did have one last gasp before the dark years of the 1920s and 1930s. It was at the ballot box in the provincial elections in 1919-1920. In Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Ontario labour parties won substantial numbers of votes and seats. Without a strong labour movement to sustain them, their victories were short-lived.

The legacy of the 1919 revolt was a mixed one. The crushing of the Winnipeg General Strike and hundreds of other disputes across the country demoralized workers. Many were prevented from returning to their jobs and those who did found conditions, at best, unchanged. It would be another generation before the labour movement would regain the popularity it enjoyed in this era.

The postwar movement was the broadest based movement in Canada. It cut across ethnic and gender differences to a remarkable degree. But more action was needed in this direction if labour was ever to build a viable movement in a rapidly changing industrial world. On the other hand, many years later a significant number of workers still found inspiration in the solidarity of 1919. As Jacob Penner, a participant in events of the time reminisced in 1950,

The Winnipeg General Strike is immortal. It lives in the memory of those that are still with us and who took such an honourable part in the struggle for the rights of the producers of wealth. It lives in the memory of the sons and daughters of those that participated and to whom this story is being related by their parents during quiet family hours.

 

Sources: https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/labour/labh22e.html,

Workers’ Compensation workers from across Canada meet to discuss crushing workloads and the need for sweeping reforms for mental health injuries

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Representatives of the major unions representing Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) workers in Canada met to discuss issues that impact injured workers, employers and employees of workers compensation boards.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) represent Workers’ Compensation employees in Canada’s ten provinces and three territories. Continue reading

Labour Day message: facing the challenges ahead together

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Labour Day is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate the progress and gains that workers have made in Canada and around the world. As we enjoy the last long weekend of summer with friends and family, let’s also reflect on our hard-fought victories for working people from the past year, and years before, and let’s commit ourselves to our fight for a fairer and more equal world. Continue reading

International Workers’ Day 2018

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Today is the day when workers around the world take to the streets to commemorate the historic struggle for an eight‑hour workday, and to voice their demands for decent work and a life of dignity and respect. CUPE recognizes International Workers’ Day, or May Day, in solidarity with millions of workers around the world. Continue reading

CUPE marks the Day of Mourning

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CUPE’S National Health and Safety Committee first proposed the creation of a national Day of Mourning 34 years ago.

That idea came to fruition in 1991 when the federal government passed legislation to establish April 28th as the Day of Mourning. It has grown internationally as the World Day for Safety and Health at Work and is recognized in more than 120 countries around the world. Continue reading

Report outlines the implications of P3-giant Carillion’s collapse on Manitoba’s economy

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The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives MB released a report today The Collapse of P3 Giant Carillion and Its Implications.

Summary:

The report, by University Economist Dr. John Loxley, explains the role Carillion has played in the UK’s longtime use of P3s and how the multi-national’s bankruptcy could reverberate around the world.  Carillion was involved in many large P3  ventures meant to provide reliable service to schools, hospitals, prisions, and major public infrastructure projects.  It had annual sales of Ca$9 billion, and employs 46,000 workers worldwide, including 6,500 in Canada. Continue reading

Strike pay from day one strengthens bargaining power

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Charles Fleury | National Secretary-Treasurer

At the bargaining table, governments and employers across the country continue to ask for more and offer less in return.

To strengthen the power of our members during bargaining, delegates at the 2017 National Convention passed a resolution to have strike pay begin on the first day of a strike or lockout. Previously, strike pay of up to $300 a week began on the fifth day of a strike.

This change is now in effect. It adds strength to the bargaining position of locals when employers try to bargain unreasonable demands. From now on, bargaining strategies will take into account the fact that our members will have their strike pay in hand sooner. Continue reading

Labour Day: Celebrating our progress and moving forward

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As the summer comes to an unofficial close with its last long weekend, let us celebrate Labour Day by rededicating ourselves to our goal of improving working conditions for our members and all workers in Canada.

Many of us will be marching in Labour Day parades or participating in commemorative events over the long weekend, and as we celebrate the progress and gains we have made for workers over the years, we contemplate the struggles ahead to achieve true social justice and equality for all. Continue reading

Statement by CUPE National President Mark Hancock and National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury on white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia

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The Canadian Union of Public Employers (CUPE) and its 650,000 members across Canada refuse to stay silent in the face of white supremacy, bigotry, and the racist violence it spurred this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. CUPE condemns these hateful acts, and stands in solidarity with those who courageously stood up against this violence and hatred. Continue reading