Former CUPE 3909 President Matt McLean was our delegate to the CUPE National Convention held in Quebec City in October, where he also attended the Post Secondary Education Sector meeting as part of his role on the CUPE PSE Task Force. Read his reports on both below.
Report on National Post Secondary Task Force
Over the past two years I have had the pleasure of representing Manitoba on CUPE’s National Post-Secondary Education Task Force. This Task Force was created as a result of a resolution passed at the 2011 National Convention. CUPE members do a wide variety of work in the PSE sector, including academic workers, clerical support, library workers, food service workers, custodians, and virtually every other position held in Colleges and Universities across Canada. In total, CUPE represents over 65,000 workers in the Post Secondary sector.
The Task Force was created as a result of a need for CUPE’s post-secondary locals to get together on a regular basis to share experiences and ideas. In addition, the Task Force plays an important role in helping direct CUPE’s position on post-secondary education issues – encouraging high quality, affordable education. Further, the Task Force has been active in building relationships with many different organizations, such as the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and has sent delegates to various national and international events. More information about the committee can be seen in the video below:
While there is still work to be done, I am proud to say that the Task Force has made significant progress over the past two years. First, I am happy to report that upon the recommendation of the Task Force, at the 2013 National Convention CUPE delegates voted to officially endorse the creation of a Post-Secondary Education Act. CUPE has now joined the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Association of University Teachers in calling upon the Federal government to enact legislation that, like the Canada Health Act for Health Care, would require provincial government to meet certain standards in order to PSE funding, ensuring that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, has relatively equal access to high quality post-secondary education. This was the Task Force’s first priority at convention, and we were very pleased to see it receive overwhelming support from delegates.
As mentioned above, the Task Force has also been working at ways to create more opportunities for PSE workers to get together to discuss our common issues. Our second highest priority at the 2013 convention was to have a PSE sector meeting in 2014 that would involve delegates from all locals – not just one representative from each province on a Task Force. While this resolution itself did not make it to the floor, the Convention did create a system of Sector Councils which will hold regular meetings. Our Local, and every other PSE Local, will have the ability to send delegates to meetings of these councils which are scheduled to take place every other year. I highly recommend that our Local send delegates to these meetings when they take place.
Serving as the Manitoba representative on the Task Force for the past two years has been a very rewarding experience. However, my term is quickly coming to an end. I highly encourage the Local to nominate an individual to sit on the National Task Force when the National Officers call for nominations.
Report on National Convention
This past October I had the honour of representing Local 3909 at CUPE’s 50th National Convention in Quebec City. It was a fantastic convention. There was a lot of important debate about the future of our Union on the convention floor, important reflections on the history of our great Union (see the videos included below), and in general a commitment to keep up the fight against neo-liberalism, “austerity”, and attacks on the rights of Unions.
For Post-Secondary workers, like ourselves at 3909, there were several important motions passed at convention. In particular, a motion was passed which called for CUPE to endorse the creation of a Post Secondary Education (PSE) Act. The PSE Act would, like the Canada Health Act, ensure that Federal transfer payments for PSE are used exclusively for PSE, reduce tuition fees, and in general ensure that all Canadians have access to affordable, high quality education. In addition, the Convention voted to support the abolition of tuition fees in Canada’s colleges and universities.
In addition, CUPE delegates passed a large number of other resolutions. Included amongst these was the launch of various national campaigns, including resisting recent cuts to Employment Insurance and Health Care transfer payments by the Harper Conservatives. CUPE delegates also passed an important constitutional change, creating a system of sectoral councils. These councils will help ensure that workers a variety of sectors, including post-secondary education, have the ability to share ideas and resources right across the country. In addition, Convention delegates voted to raise weekly strike pay from $200 to $300.
In addition to dealing with the resolutions and constitutional changes, the Convention featured a number of key speakers. Included amongst these speakers was Leader of the Official Opposition and Federal NDP Leaders Thomas Mulcair, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress Ken Georgetti, the General Secretary of Public Services International Rosa Pavanelli, and the newly elected President of UNIFOR Jerry Dias. While each speaker spoke to their particular area of expertise, the general theme of the speeches was the important role CUPE, and the labour movement as a whole, has in leading the fight back against neo-liberalism, austerity, and government attacks on our basic human rights.
Another highlight of convention was the election of officers. Manitoba’s own Paul Moist was re-elected to his 6th consecutive term as President of CUPE. National Secretary-Treasurer, Charles Fleury, will also be serving another term. Three other Manitobans were elected to the National Executive, including CUPE Manitoba President Kelly Moist, who was elected as CUPE National General Vice-President. CUPE 500 President, Mike Davidson, was elected Manitoba’s regional Vice-President. Brian Barron, also from CUPE 500, was re-elected as Diversity Vice-President.
Finally, I would like to thank 3909 for providing me with the opportunity to attend National Convention. CUPE is a democratic union, and our National Convention is the highest decision making body in that democracy. I am honoured to have been asked to represent our Local at this important event.