Labour Council President Marie Mentz speaks to CEP 2000 Interior Council

Speech by North Okanagan Labour Council President Marie Mentz to the Interior Council of CEP 2000, Jan. 15, 2000:

Thank You! As mentioned, my name is Marie Mentz and I am the President of the North Okanagan Labour Council.

I am also a member of the Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU) and along with the CEP and many other Unions, we are affiliates of the Labour Council.

I thank Brother Bulmer (Pat), your executive and all of you for inviting me here and providing me with the opportunity to speak to you today.

I really enjoy meeting with affiliates and attending meetings like this because I always learn a lot more about your issues and how our Labour Council can work with you to help achieve your goals and how we can work together on common issues that benefit all of us.

That's really what Labour Councils are all about. The NOLC represents over 10,000 members within approximately 26 Unions affiliated. We meet monthly to share each others issues and how we can collectively move Labour's agenda forward.

Some of the current areas we are assisting Union members in their challenges are:

- B.C. Projectionists International Union Local 348: Sixty-three workers throughout the province have been locked out for over a year. Their employers including Sony, Viacom and Famous Players Theatres have demanded 60% wage cuts from their workers. The only option for these workers was to accept their employers demands, or be locked out of their workplace.

In most cases there are two or three people walking the picket lines every night; they are taunted, spit on, laughed at, all while they try to keep warm in the bitter cold. A hand shake, a word of encouragement or just a smile makes a world of difference. But you know what the real difference is? Respecting their picket line, showing solidarity, understanding why their doing what their doing and offering support.

Their employers cry tech change and that others do their job for $10.00 per hour, yet some of these workers have been projectionists for over 30 years, received extensive training to run three or four screens at a time, now they have to run 20-plexes through automation and still only get 20 hours of work per week.

- We recently supported the CLC boycott on Mott's Clamato juice for their unfair treatment of workers, failure to collectively bargain, closing their operations in Edmonton and moving to a Right to Work, anti-union state in the U.S.

- NAFTA, the Free Trade Agreement, the MAI agreement, major bank mergers and all the issues surrounding the WTO (World Trade Organization) were major issues for Labour, and our Labour Council was very much involved through lobbying governments, writing letters to the editor and information events geared to inform the public.

- We initiated a local campaign in conjunction with the CLC national campaign on the Unemployment Insurance Act, which is now called the Employment Insurance Act. Our main concerns were on the legislative amendments that barred workers from collecting benefits that were originated by a mandatory deduction from their income.

We advised the public that the EI fund is solely based on the revenues raised from workers and their employers. There is no government money in the EI fund whatsoever! However, at the same time the federal government boasts a balanced budget with 22 billion dollars surplus in the EI Fund.

They are stealing workers' money to balance their books and at the same time cutting transfer payments to the provinces and cutting services to the public. I won't even mention what they promised they would do with the GST, because I know you all hear enough stories from the media!

- We have worked on election issues (Vote Smart Campaign), Child Labour Campaigns, Sweat Shops and many more...

- Provincial and Federal Labour Codes, which both provide us with the framework for collective bargaining and allow us in B.C. to enjoy anti-scab legislation, successorship and common employer status. I feel for your brothers and sisters on the line at the Calgary Herald that are subject to such unfair, anti-labour laws.

The point I am trying to make is that our Labour Council, or Labour in general could never accomplish any of our goals or do any of the things we do without the help of our affiliates.

I know that Local 2000 of the CEP plays a significant role in our Labour Council and I can't thank Brother Pat Bulmer enough for all his help with communications, his advice on media issues and just the fact that he is a trooper when I ask for his assistance with any issue.

One of the other areas that is a lot of work, but I still love to do is the Education Department of the Labour Council, so I think I will close my comments today on the topic of education because I thinks it's very important and is very dear to me.

Our Labour Council is involved in education, both in the public school system through our Job Smart program, where we teach students about their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

We were also successful in introducing Labour History into the public school system after many years of struggle. We believe students have the right to know about Labour, our achievements over the years and the role we play in our communities today.

The last issue I want to draw your attention to is our annual weekend school.

We have found over the years that it is far too expensive for affiliates to send their membership all over the province to receive the proper education they need to face the day-to-day challenges in the workplace. So through our weekend school, we bring the education to the workers.

This year will be our 12th annual weekend school, and once again we are proud to offer popular courses with qualified instructors as requested by our affiliates. This provides the opportunity for local membership to take courses that are specific to the issues they deal with at work and in the community.

The school this year will be held at the North Campus of the Okanagan University College, located just south of the Kelowna Airport, on March 11th & 12th, 2000.

Courses this year include; Assertiveness Training, Facing Management, Basic Steward Training, Steward 2 grievance handling, Introduction to Occupational Health & Safety, Federal Labour Law, and Job Smart for youth.

I hope that all of you will spread the word and try to participate this year. Once again, I thank you for allowing me to speak to you today and I will answer any questions you may have if there's time on your agenda. Thank you.


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