May 9, 2012 minutes
MINUTES - MONTHLY MEETING, NORTH OKANAGAN LABOUR COUNCIL AT KELOWNA
AFFILIATES PRESENT: Ron Bobowski, CUPW, Cheryl Stone, UFCW 1518, Carole Gordon, COTA/BCTF, Ronn Dunn, CUPE 3523, Nikki Inouye, HEU Vernon,
Louise Gibson, COPE 378, Karen Abramsen, UFCW 1518, Shane Curveon, ATU 1722, Andrew Pritchard, Unite Here-Local 40,
Ken Fighter, CUPE 338, Doris Janssen, CEP-M1, Pat Bulmer, CEP 2000, David McCarthy, IAFF 953, Greg McGowan, CUPE 873
REGRETS: Nancy Ingersol, BCTF VTA, Wendy Mah, BCGEU, Dave Porteous, UFCW 1518
GUESTS: Doug Gibson, BCFORUM, Wade Ashton, IBEW, James L. Fox, CUPE 523
BCFORUM Delegate: Elizabeth Woods
CALL TO ORDER: The meeting was called to order by Carole Gordon, President, at 7:00 pm
ADOPTION OF AGENDA: M/S/C
GUEST SPEAKERS: none
ADOPTION OF PREVIOUS MINUTES: M/S/C
CREDENTIALS REPORT: 18 Present with 14 Delegates, 3 Guests 1 BCFORUM Delegate
OBLIGATIONS OF NEW DELEGATES: Wade Ashton, IBEW was obligated as a delegate
FINANCIAL REPORT: given by Ron Bobowski, Secretary Treasurer, M/S/C to adopt financial report as circulated. A motion was made to adopt the 2012 Budget presented by Ron Bobowski. M/S/C
EXECUTIVE BOARD REPORT/ACTION CORRESPONDENCE
Our Times Magazine renewal April 2012- A motion was made to subscribe for another three years. M/S/C
REPORTS OF LOCAL UNIONS/STANDING COMMITTEE REPORTS/CLC REPORT:
REPORTS OF LOCAL UNIONS:
Doris Janssen, CEP M1 Okanagan Unit
Brothers and Sister of the North Okanagan Labour Council, as you are all feeling, the worker in the Okanagan is feeling the brunt of decisions made, yet again at the federal and provincial government levels.
I stop and wonder what Canadian workers would feel like if they didn't have a 5 day work week? - An 8 hour or less work day? - Maternity leave? Parental and spousal rights? How soon we forget.
At CHBC News, we are feeling the pinch of the global economic downturn, but we are fighting management who believes they have the right to breach the collective agreement to make the bottom line look better for them. Who's them? The owners who pay themselves half a million a month in pension and $25 million a year in bonuses! That's who. We are worried about job losses due to contracting out, just like you are. We are concerned about job classifications expanding due to job losses elsewhere without remuneration of any kind.
We are desperate to improve the lives of our workers, who make on average, 10 dollars less an hour than people in the public sector unions.
Our CEP staff continues to work with the Canadian Auto Workers union on a possible merger. Talks continue on a weekly basis. This would expand both union's positions against not only our employers, but against the politicians in this country who favour the dollar they can multiply rather than those trying to make just one to keep food on the table for our families.
Elizabeth Woods, BCFORUM, EI Board of Referees Report. (It's a letter you could send your MP about changes being to EI and other appeals processes.)
I am writing to bring your attention to a very serious problem with the Budget Implementation Bill 2012 that will have a major impact on caseload intake rates for your staff and your constituency office. I urge you to discuss this with the Minister of HRSDC and urge her to sever proposed changes to the Employment Insurance program from the Budget Implementation Bill so they can be properly reviewed by the Parliamentary HUMA Committee.
A proposed new Social Security Tribunal will be created through the Budget Implementation Bill to replace current appeal tribunals for Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security. We believe this change to the existing system of EI Boards of Referees and Umpires will result in a significant increase in EI casework for your staff.
As you are aware, your offices have recently been forced to respond to a large volume of complaints by constituents due to slow processing of EI claims because of staff shortages and complications in claims resulting from automation.
Currently, EI appeals are heard by tripartite Boards of Referees which have been established for 83 local EI regions. There are about 1,000 members of these Boards in total, with about one-third appointed by each of employers, labour and government to serve on a part-time basis.
The composition of the tripartite Boards reflects the fact that EI is a social insurance program, run by the government, but financed by employer and worker premiums.
The Boards have intimate knowledge of local labour market conditions and of the EI program. Appeals are usually presented by the individual to a three- person panel, ensuring a fair and informed hearing within a timely 28-day period. Further appeals can be made to the Umpire.
Under the proposed new system, the EI Boards of Referees will be replaced by the EI Section of the new Social Security Tribunal. This section will have just 39 full-time members who will serve for five-year terms (plus a very small number of part-time members to a maximum of 11 full-time positions for the entire Social Security Tribunal).
The new EI Tribunal will not sit as panels. Rather a single Tribunal member will hold hearings, which we are informed may often have to be held over the phone or through other technological means rather than in the community where the complainant resides. Appeals from a Tribunal member's decision will be heard only if allowed, and they will be heard by the non specialist review panel of the new Tribunal.
Our concern is that the new system will lead to undue delays and miscarriages of justice due to a lack of knowledge of local labour market conditions. The new Tribunal member will lack of the perspective that is currently brought to the existing process by worker and employer representatives. And a complainant will be faced with an unfair appeal process.
Considering the government's intent to give the power to the Minister of HRSDC to set regulations that will define what constitutes suitable employment and reasonable efforts to find work, limiting a claimant's ability to appeal will lead to unfairness and greater hardship.
In our view, a system that is so broken that less than 40% of unemployed workers currently receive benefits needs to be fixed rather than made more difficult for the unemployed.
We believe that these major changes to a system which is generally working well should be carefully considered by a Parliamentary Committee rather than rushed into law through the Budget Implementation Bill. This change, along with other proposals relating to return to work initiatives are so significant they should be severed from the Budget Implementation Bill altogether. You as a Member of Parliament will, without a doubt, see a significant increase in your constituency casework if these proposed changes are not examined carefully for their potential consequences.
STANDING COMMITTEE REPORTS:
Day of Mourning Karen Abramsen report -- What a wonderful event! Well over 100 people attended, with special guests. The two speakers organized to speak from Worksafe BC were extremely moving with a very important message. This year the City workers, (CUPE 338) and the Kelowna Fire Fighters, (IAFF 953), attended, along with many other unions, too numerous to mention. Following the moment of silence, a representative from Okanagan Indian Band performed a Farewell Drum Song. We also unveiled our beautiful new park bench. The addition of a sound system was a great addition and a must for future year's events. While initially committed for three years, which is up this year, Worksafe said they will be around next year. We discussed perhaps sharing our speakers with the south Okanagan Boundary Labour Council since they also had an event this year. There was confusion this year about the date of the event. That was due to us changing it to the day before the actual Day of Mourning, from May 28, to May 27. The City of Kelowna and the Kelowna Fire Fighters, IAFF 953 did not hold a ceremony this year, so they joined us. Next year the 28th will fall on a Sunday so we will need to decide when to hold our ceremony in 2013.
Protein for People -- Cheryl Stone, Organizer -- Plans began in January 2012 and moved forward right to May 6, 2012. The Kelowna Food Bank (KFB) was celebrating "Hunger Awareness Week" from May 7 to 11, 2012. I thought it would be a great idea to have our event as the "kick off" to "Hunger Awareness Week," as we were happening on May 6th. The Kelowna Food Bank Associate Assistant Director, Lenetta Parry, thought that this would be a terrific idea. We had several meetings to exchange ideas. The venue was booked first, then the insurance, from the Canadian Labour Congress, for the event, followed by a Food Serving Permit from Interior Health. Once all of this was in place the event was pulled together.
We held the event at Springvalley Elementary School in Kelowna, where 275 children attend. A custodian was in attendance for the day to keep things in order and organize the table set up etc. We had 2 large BBQs, one donated from CUPE and one donated from Boyd's Auto Body, called the"CAR B Q." IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) members helped with the cooking as well as over 20 union sisters and brothers volunteering for the day. We provided food and drink to hundreds of adults and children, many food bank recipients, union members and all local crafters who attended the event. The children's craft area helped young and older children make about 150 Mother's Day cards. Children really enjoyed the magician and every child went home with an animal balloon created by Rusty the clown, as well as a bag of popcorn. The crafters said that many people visited their booths and many were very interested to learn about Protein for People and our Labour Council. Protein for People Project's goal is to create more awareness of Labour in our communities, and help feed the many thousands of people who must access our Food Banks in this Province. I believe that we succeeded in this goal in Kelowna this May 6, 2012.
CLC Report -- Iris Taylor
The President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) says the federal budget tabled on March 29, 2012 has failed Canadians by destroying valuable public services and jobs and attacking pensions.
"The government could have used this budget to help struggling middle class and working Canadians," Georgetti says, "but it chose not to do so."
Georgetti says the government has borrowed billions of dollars to spend on tax giveaways to corporations that donŐt need the money and are sitting on the cash rather than investing in creating jobs. "Now the government wants to pay for those tax breaks by making drastic spending cuts. This will destroy thousands of jobs and will result in the loss of important public services -- everything from food inspection, to environmental programs, to processing Employment Insurance claims."
The Budget makes some small good news announcements, but these are greatly outweighed by deep cuts to federal government programs, the details of which will not be clear for some time.
The CLC president also criticized cutbacks to the age of eligibility for Old Age Security. "Governments have a role to play in helping Canadians to meet their basic needs during retirement. This budget should have been used to improve the retirement security of Canadians, not to undermine it."
Georgetti says he is disappointed that the government has not moved to improve access to the Employment Insurance program. "Only 39.5% of unemployed Canadian workers are able to collect regular EI benefits. That is a scandal and it has to be fixed. These workers, who paid their premiums in good faith, need EI to tide them over until they find new jobs."
For the CLC's analysis of the 2012 federal budget go to www.canadianlabour.ca/news-room/publications/clc-analysis-2012-federal-budget.
Retirement Security for Everyone
The CLC is continuing to call for improvements to the retirement system in Canada, to ensure that there is retirement security for everyone. One of our major points is an increase in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). We have a broad base of support from municipal and provincial governments, as well as support from federal politicians and pension experts.
It's important that labour councils and labour activists make their support known to their elected officials, especially at the provincial and federal levels. While the federal government runs the CPP, provincial governments have a huge say in how the CPP is set up and the retirement income it provides to retirees. It's vital that provincial governments support an increase to the CPP and we need the help of labour councils and local activists in ensuring this support.
We have talked to many federal and provincial politicians on this issue but it's important to keep trying to talk to the ones we haven't seen yet. We have to make sure the voice of everyday people is heard on this very important issue.
CLC's Hassan Yussuff to Head TUCA: Elected President of Hemispheric Labour Organization
Hassan Yussuff of the Canadian Labour Congress, has been elected to a four-year term as president of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA).Yussuff, who is the CLC's Secretary-Treasurer, was elected on April 20 at a TUCA convention occurring in Iguazu Falls, Brazil.
"I am pleased to be elected president, especially with the many problems facing our movement in this hemisphere," says Yussuff. "I hope that TUCA will continue to be an effective voice for workers and their families as we continue to fight for improvements in their lives throughout the Americas."
TUCA represents more than 50 million workers belonging to 50 active trade union affiliates in 29 countries, including Canada, the US, Brazil, and nations in Latin America. TUCA belongs, in turn, to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), with headquarters in Brussels.
Yussuff says, "We live in a world where transnational corporations have a global reach and this poses special challenges for the labour movement. In this difficult context, we also have to work aggressively at a global level to promote union membership, to push for government policies that create employment, and to protect our labour and human rights."
TUCA has offices and permanent staff in Brazil and Costa Rica. Yussuff will perform his duties from the CLC's Ottawa office and will continue in his role as CLC Secretary-Treasurer.
Employment Insurance Benefits Hard to Access: CLC President Responds to Statistics Canada Figures
The President of the Canadian Labour Congress says it is "scandalous" that fewer than 40% of unemployed workers in Canada are receiving Employment Insurance benefits.
Ken Georgetti was responding to the release of Statistics Canada information for the month of February 2012, when only 39.9% of unemployed workers were receiving EI Benefits. That is 3.7 percentage points lower than February 2011, when 43.6% of the unemployed were receiving regular benefits.
"Many unemployed workers have run out of EI benefits and are forced to sell assets and property, or collect welfare to survive," Georgetti says. "These people are out of work through no fault of their own. They paid into this insurance program believing it would be there for them when they needed it and fewer than 40 per cent of them can collect. This is scandalous."
Georgetti says, "What we need from the government is a strategy to create good, family-supporting jobs. And we need a strategy for training young workers and for retraining workers who are unemployed."
Georgetti adds, "We wanted to see in the recent budget a major push on retraining but that's not what we got. There was some talk about training but no equivalent new spending to use EI funds to train unemployed workers in the skills needed for growing areas of our economy."
Day of Mourning
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Nova Scotia Westray mine disaster, where an underground methane explosion took the lives of 26 workers. Since then, the labour movement has worked to have parliament pass the Westray bill. This bill amended the Criminal Code of Canada to hold employers who fail to take steps to protect the lives of their employees, criminally liable. The Westray bill provided a new regime outlining the framework of corporate liability in Canada.
In the nine years since the Westray bill amendments and corporate manslaughter law came into effect, only two provinces have laid charges under the criminal code. If the provinces and territories were using the Westray legislation as intended, we could make significant inroads to protecting workers' health and safety and we could save lives.
Tragically, thousands of workers every year have their lives changed because of a major injury while hundreds more lose their lives because of their work. No job is worth dying for, yet 1,014 people lost their lives in 2010, the most recent year for which we have statistics. These are not accidents, they can be prevented. It's important to remember that Canada still has one of the highest rates of workplace deaths in the industrialized world, and even one death is still one too many.
Nothing can bring back those who have died, but a message has to be sent that cutting corners on health and safety is not acceptable. If and when an employer wilfully neglects health and safety, knowing that someone can be injured or killed -- they should be held criminally responsible. Corporations and their representatives need to be held accountable. As workers, we need to pressure our governments to use the Westray legislation as intended.
Today should not be the day another worker dies at work.
Camp Jubilee & Silver Lake Summer Camp for Kids 2012 -- Ronn Dunn, Entries are coming in. The draw will be held at the June 6, 2012 meeting. You may enter through our website or at the June meeting.
BCFED Thompson Okanagan Regional Conference -- May 24- 26, 2012, The NOLC will sponsor 4 NOLC delegates to attend this conference. Delegates to attend the conference, sponsored by the NOLC are: Ron Bobowski, CUPW, Cheryl Stone, UFCW 1518, Nikki Inouye, HEU, and Dave Porteous, UFCW 1518. We are proud to announce that our President Carole Gordon will be MC'ing the conference.
United Way Breakfast at BCFED Conference - A United Way Breakfast is being held at the Capri Hotel, for the BCFED Conference, on Friday, May 24th at 7:30 am. The fee is $15.00 per person. Elizabeth Woods and Cheryl Stone will be volunteering at the breakfast. A motion was made for our LC to sponsor a table of 8. M/S/C
United Way Plane Pull Friday, May 11, 2012 the NOLC did not succeed in organizing a team this year.
NOLC Facebook Page -- Carole Gordon has set up a Facebook page for the North Okanagan Labour Council. If you have a Facebook account please visit our NOLC page and become friended.
United Way Director -- Andrew Pritchard, Unite Here Local 40 has shown an interest in becoming the NOLC's Labour Director. A motion was made to have Andrew as our United Way Labour Director. M/S/C
USW Solidarity -- In light of the Prince George Mill explosion a motion was made to offer a $1,000.00 cheque to the USW to show solidarity from the NOLC. M/S/C
NOLC June Social -- to be announced, a message will go out to all affiliates soon.
FINAL CREDENTIALS REPORT: 18 Present with 15 Delegates 2 Guests 1 BCFORUM delegate
ADJOURNMENT: The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 pm by Carole Gordon, President
Minutes respectfully submitted by Cheryl Stone, Recording Secretary, UFCW 1518
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Hollywood Road Educational Services Building,
1040 Hollywood Road, Kelowna
Location of the social will be announced at the meeting.
We will all meet for appies and a beverage, paid for by the NOLC immediately following the meeting.