CUPE convention to create two-year goals

$4 million to $5 million goes to battling contracting out and P3s

Following on a pattern begun in 2003, the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ National Convention will be debating new priorities for the union and allocating resources to achieve them.

The first set of strategic directions included these three: strengthen bargaining power, increase day-to-day effectiveness to better represent members, and stop contracting out and privatization. The 2005 directions grew to six, although three were offshoots of earlier directions. Those new priorities were organizing, increasing the participation of women, improving communications and strengthening ties with other unions.

This time around, the number of strategic directions has been reduced to three, but each one appears much broader than the relatively focused ones in the earlier lists. The three priorities being debated for adoption are (1) the CUPE fightback campaign, (2) strengthening bargaining power and achieving equality, and (3) meeting global green targets and building global solidarity.

Combating privatization seems to be the cornerstone of the directions. CUPE will allocate between $4 and $5 million of new money to the campaign over two years and “will employ strikes, demonstrations, lobbying and political campaigns to achieve our goals in whatever combination is necessary.” This direction will also cover protests against trade deals such as the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) between Alberta and British Columbia, and Atlantica, the so-called International Northeast Economic Region comprising Atlantic Canada and several U.S. Border States. The new thrust will also include advocacy of public services as the building-blocks of community and will attempt to influencing public policy through political action. Notably, the call for Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory is reaffirmed.

The second strategic direction aims at strengthening bargaining power. Specifically, CUPE will bargain for a minimum wage of $15 per hour for all of its units and a pension plan covering all members by 2013. Health benefits will also be a priority. According to a CUPE proposal for debate, “No CUPE member should be without benefits and we need to bring smaller locals into larger plans.”

The notion of using multi-employer plans is mentioned in regard to both pensions and health benefits. CUPE already has access to the Multi-Sector Pension Plan which it operates in partnership with the Service Employees International Union. On the benefits side, the union will provide enhanced training on the benefits options available and assistance in negotiating benefit plans into existing contracts.

Finally, the third strategic direction, meeting green targets and fostering global solidarity, is largely an internal direction that urges the union and its members to pursue environmentally friendly goals and to create networks to assist unions and other groups in other countries.

The directions were debated at the convention on October 16 and 18.

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