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(North Battleford) Glaslyn resident Denis Ouellette, President of CUPE Local 4797, has been awarded the CUPE Saskatchewan Education Workers’ Steering Committee activist award.
Ouellette works at the Northwest School Division as a caretaker. He has been a CUPE member for 12 years, and has served as a steward, a member of the executive, and as the president of his local.
Ouellette has participated in four rounds of bargaining and achieved gains for his members each time. He has spent countless hours traveling across the school division and on the phone informing his members and making sure they understood the issues and knew the bargaining committee was there for them.
Based in Swift Current, the SWCS is a non-profit, community-based organization that operates a safe shelter for women and children leaving abusive situations. SWCS also operates a confidential 24-hour help line for anyone needing support and provides outreach support counselling to help women, men and children who are at risk of abuse or need assistance with interpersonal issues.
“The workers at the SWCS provide an indispensable service for the entire southwest corner of Saskatchewan,” says Guy Marsden, CUPE National Organizer. “We are very pleased to welcome these members into our union.”
Marsden says the membership of the new Local, to be identified as CUPE Local 5398, will elect a bargaining committee and executive soon. Work will also begin on developing proposals for a first collective agreement.
Colin Byas, candidate for Secretary-Treasurer of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL), has received the endorsement of the Executive Board of CUPE Saskatchewan ahead of elections to be held at the upcoming SFL Convention in Regina on October 24 – 27, 2018, at Queensbury Convention Centre, Evraz Place.
“Colin’s years of experience in the labour movement, his commitment to community involvement, his experience as a union Treasurer and Trustee, and his understanding of labour law and collective agreements make him an ideal candidate for Secretary-Treasurer of the SFL,” said Tom Graham, President of CUPE Saskatchewan.
Colin Byas began his involvement in the labour movement by organizing his workplace as a community housing worker to join a union in 1997. Since then, he has held several elected labour leadership positions including chief shop steward, chair of a bargaining committee, local union president, treasurer of a local union and sector, and a local union trustee. Byas is a proud member of CUPE Local 3761 and works as a staff member in the role of a union representative.
“Our members who work in group homes across the province take care of some of our most vulnerable citizens. Despite this important work, provincial funding has been stagnant, and most workers have gone for years without any pay increases,” said Tom Graham, President of CUPE Saskatchewan. “This year, the Saskatchewan government finally provided a small funding increase, but group homes are still woefully underfunded.”
Both CUPE Local 3680 (representing workers at Yorkton’s Yail Harbor Inc.) and Local 4552 (representing workers at Deer Park Villa in Ituna) have ratified much needed wage increases.
The main sticking point in negotiations is the pension plan. The university is refusing to talk pensions at the bargaining table and is threatening to make unilateral cuts to the pension plan. The local is looking to negotiate language into their collective agreement to protect their right to continue bargaining all pension changes at the bargaining table.
“Changes to the plan have historically been bargained at a collective bargaining table. The university now wants to back away from this historical practice,” said Craig Hannah, president of CUPE Local 1975. “The union simply wants to ensure that our collective agreement is clear that changes to the pension plan need to be negotiated at the bargaining table.”
CUPE National President Mark Hancock and Saskatoon Tribal Chief Mark Arcand joined with members of CUPE 1949 today to speak out about the cuts to Legal Aid and the impact it is having on the community.
For years, Legal Aid has operated based on a staff model system. Under CEO Craig Goebel’s watch, Legal Aid has suffered mounting cuts.
“After years of chronic underfunding, and more intense and unsustainable workloads, we are at a breaking point. We love our jobs but more and more we are not being given the tools to do them well. Our staff has been cut back as Legal Aid files remain steady and, in some cases, processes more and more files each year,” said Meara Conway, Vice-President of CUPE Local 1949. “This decision to fire an already small team of committed Legal Aid workers and contract out thousands of files to private lawyers shows that CEO Goebel is out of touch with the needs of our clients. The in-house public staff model at Legal Aid Saskatchewan should be protected and expanded, not dismantled and privatized.”
A member of the union, former Legal Director of the Saskatoon Criminal Office and long-time advocate, Val Harvey has been threatened with a law-suit by Craig Goebel for speaking out against the cuts.
A member of CUPE Local 1949 has been threatened with a lawsuit in retaliation of her efforts to represent the six members who were laid off when Legal Aid Saskatchewan privatized the majority of duty counsel work in the Saskatoon office this summer.
In a letter provided by CEO Craig Goebel’s legal counsel, CUPE member Val Harvey was threatened with a defamation law suit.
“Instead of trying to rebuild trust with our members and addressing the lengthier remand rates that have resulted from his privatization scheme, Goebel is attempting to muzzle our members”, said Wanda Towstego, President of CUPE Local 1949. “The result of these threats may have a chilling effect on our membership who may hesitate to exercise their rights as a union member for fear of retaliation”
CUPE Local 1949, the union who represents all non-management staff at Legal Aid, recently conducted a membership wide vote of non-confidence against Mr. Goebel. The result was overwhelming, with 95 percent of members voting against the actions of Mr. Goebel and in favour of the non-confidence motion.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has issued layoff notices to 33 workers at the Grenfell Pioneer home, many of whom are members of CUPE Local 5340. The Health Authority is relocating 20 residents of Grenfell Pioneer Home due to the serious nature of mould and asbestos found in the facility.
“There is a lot of uncertainty right now for our members and for the community of Grenfell,” said Sandra Seitz, president of CUPE Local 5430. “The future of the facility in Grenfell is up in the air, as is the job security of many members. This could have been avoided if the Saskatchewan government adequately maintained our health care facilities.”
The union has been told the future of the facility has not been decided. The Saskatchewan Health Authority stated that they hope the relocation will be temporary but are exploring options that could include continued remediation and maintenance at the existing Grenfell Pioneer Home or the construction of a new facility.
The Grenfell Pioneer Home is not the only long-term care facility in the province facing serious health and safety risks from mould. Close to 100 residents at Pioneer Village in Regina had to move due to serious mould issues.
“Our health care infrastructure around the province is aging, and our need for long-term care continues to increase. The Government of Saskatchewan needs to put a plan in place to deal with this issue before more facilities are shut down, and more seniors forced to move,” said Seitz.
After almost two years of bargaining, your Local 1975 bargaining committee has served written notice to the employer and the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety that the union and the University of Saskatchewan have reached an impasse in the current round of negotiations.
The main sticking point in negotiations is the pension plan. The University is refusing to talk pensions at the bargaining table and is threatening to make unilateral cuts to the pension plan.
“CUPE 1975 and the University of Saskatchewan have a long history of engaging in serious and good faith bargaining over our pension plan. We see no reason that this practice should stop,” said Craig Hannah, president of CUPE Local 1975. “If the University has their way, workers will no longer have a voice when it comes to their retirement security.”
CUPE 5512 represents education support workers across the Prairie South School Division. The local is heading into bargaining with the Employer this fall.
“CUPE education workers are dedicated to supporting the learning of all Saskatchewan students throughout the school year, and we will continue to provide the best possible learning environments for our province’s future,” said Dale Smith, president of Local 5512. “We are looking forward to a constructive round of bargaining with the Prairie South School Division, and to reaching a fair and reasonable deal for our members.”