Brothers and Sisters:
I am pleased to submitmy activity report since the last meeting of the Atlantic Regional Council. My activities are set out under the following headings: Regionalization, Negotiations/Mobilization and Political Action.
The first meeting of the newly elected Atlantic Regional Council Meeting was held at the Oak Island Inn near Chester, Nova Scotia on November 5th and 6th, 2011. The meeting was preceded by two days of very successful team building facilitated by Morna Balantyne. Regional Political Communications Officer, Lesley Thompson also lead council members in a half day of media training to start the process of calling on council members to act as spokespeople in their area of expertise.
Search and Rescue
The effort to save the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s continues, with the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour and UCTE leading the fight. The launch of the new MayDayNL website this fall marked another milestone in the campaign. The Atlantic region and the REVP’s office are committed to taking a more central role in the next stages. Discussions are taking place in mid-December and early January to plan next steps. The third video installment of the Third Choice Campaign will be on the topic of Search and Rescue and we hope to collaborate to boost the signal of both campaigns.
The most recent plan to consolidate the services of 120 Service Canada offices into a mere 20 by 2014 has kicked the Atlantic Region into high gear. We’ve continued garner extensive media coverage on this matter and squared off with Diane Finely in several papers.
In October, CEIU local 80217 president Mike Duhamel traveled to Ottawa to meet with NDP Critic for HRSD Jean Crowder. He was also subsequently asked to meet staff from Diane Finley’s office. Since this time Mike has helped the NDP confirm information that has allowed it to go public with a criticism of protracted wait times and high hang up rates for Canadians calling Service Canada for EI assistance.
With the help of headquarters, the Atlantic collaborated with CEIU in producing billboards, two in Gander, NL, and one in Sydney, NS, their message: Public Services are as Canadian as my morning coffee. One calls on Finley and the other on MP Peter Penashue to “Wake up!” and urges the public to contact them and demand the EI centres remain in the community.
Two rallies were also organized around the issue. In Gander, PSAC organized a demo parallel to the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour Convention which took place in October. When the Gander billboard was later erected, the local president was immediately contacted by Peter Penashue and offered a January meeting.
Two major rallies also took place in Cape Breton on December 10, 2011, one in Glace Bay with 150 in attendance and a second in Sydney with 250. The rallies brought together EI centre workers, community and labour. Invited guests included Members of Parliament Roger Cuzner and Mark Eyking, MLA Geoff MacLellan, Deputy Premier and MLA Frank Corbett, Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality John Morgan and Eddie Kennedy, National Executive Vice-President of the National Employees Union.
Department of Veterans Affairs
In Charlottetown we have teamed up with the municipality and other local stakeholders to commission a study on the economic impact of cuts to Veterans Affairs, Service Canada and other federal departments and agencies. We hope to launch the results in the New Year with a press conference and likely other actions.
In late October, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) announced it will eliminate 99 positions. These cuts will eliminate the very jobs that ensure sustainable economic recovery, the very jobs that help small and medium businesses in thrive. Nineteen PSAC members are affected, twelve in ACOA’s Moncton head office, two in the Nova Scotia office and five in the Ottawa office. Another 80 members of the Professional Institute of the Public Service (PIPSC) will be affected. The cuts will seriously undermine the agency’s ability to carry out its mandate.
The region garnered some media attention on this matter and recently briefed NDP MP Ryan Cleary on the file with Union of National Employees’ Doug Marshall and Eddie Kennedy. A letter is forthcoming to request a meeting with Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and for the Atlantic Gateway. He will also be targeted in our upcoming winter MP lobby.
Fisheries and Oceans
Cuts to Fisheries and Oceans announced Friday, December 9, 2011 stand to cost the Atlantic 50 positions. The announcement resonated immediately with members and the media. Within a 24hr period the REVP’s office handled interviews from The Telegram (NL), The Cape Breton Post and the Chronicle Herald (NS) where the story made front page and Jeannie Baldwin was credited the first quote. Radio interviews soon followed.
Young Workers Retreat
Work has been somewhat delayed on the Atlantic Young Workers Retreat. The retreat is now scheduled for April 22nd and 23rd and will coincide with the Atlantic School at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. Young Workers Director André Beaulieu will be collaborating with Regional Representative Dave Shaw who is assigned to the Young Workers portfolio, and with Lesley Thompson, Communications Officer and the REVP.
Conventions of provincial federations of labour
PSAC members attended the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour Issues Based Convention in Gander in October. I was also in attendance to speak at the Service Canada demonstration. The PSAC also had a reasonable presence at the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour Convention, primarily composed of UNDE members who are fully funded by their component to attend.
NS Managers Network Forum
An invitation came in October from the Nova Scotia Managers Network to provide a union perspective on a panel at a November forum. We were very grateful to arrange a cost share and have Howie West attend. The gathering brought together “new and aspiring managers” within the federal public sector in Nova Scotia. The discourse of the proceedings trumpeted the value of “excellence in leadership at times of constraint.” It was clear the extent to which managers are in the dark as to the shape the 5-10% in cuts will take. Howie provided an excellent balance to the discussion and emphasized the important of knowing the WFA appendix and collaborating actively with the union.
The demand from Compensation Advisors across the region has been a challenge to keep up with. With the help of Howie West we have been able to hold information sessions in person and via conference call.
The long gun registry
There was no doubt in the Atlantic that the Harper majority would spare the long gun registry. Nonetheless, Bill C-19 was received by the region as an affront to public safety, in particular women’s safety, and the important work our members do. The Atlantic collaborated with the Coalition for Gun Control on a media release. Members of the local and the REVP were interviewed. On December 6, I was a guest speaker at a vigil in Bridgewater.
Negotiation and Mobilization
The bargaining committee representing UCTE members at Fredericton Airport were met with a sudden final offer from the employer on December 4. The unexpected move was disrespectful to both the bargaining team and the mediator.
An interference complaint from the union is currently with the board claiming a violation of a section which concerns essential services, and terms and conditions.
A strike vote took place on December 18th and the result was 87% in favour. The clock has not started ticking yet and the union is asking the employer to come back to the table and bargain.
PSAC members, who work for Marine Atlantic in North Sydney, NS, and Port-aux-Basques and Argentia, NL, are now in conciliation and have dates set for January 10-13, 2012.
Commissionaires Nova Scotia – Halifax Airport
Commissionaires at Halifax Airport were given a final offer by the employer on January 5, 2012. On January 7, the employer started the 21 day countdown for strike or lock, out and would hold a vote. The union is preparing a response.
UCTE 80829 – Halifax Airport
Members will vote on a tentative agreement on Monday, December 19, 2011.
UNDE – CFB Gagetown
This unit is still in mediation. Dates are scheduled for January 23-27, 2012.
Political and Social Action
The Occupy movement captured the left in the Atlantic as much as anywhere else. PSAC in the Atlantic supported occupiers at solidarity rallies in Halifax and Moncton and backed this up with financial and material support.
Breaking the Silence
Thanks to the Social Justice Fund, two members from the Atlantic traveled to Guatemala this fall as delegates in the Breaking the Silence program. The delegates will be working with the Political Action Committee of Council and the REVP’s office to develop a plan for sharing their experience throughout the region.
The Atlantic continues to build its earned and social media presence. We were also thrilled to launch our new website this fall.
This fall we were again reminded of the extent to which the Atlantic suffers when cuts come down. The loss of federal jobs in small communities can be devastating. We have begun to forge partnerships in small communities with concerned parties. We intend to build on these relationships In the New Year.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the membership, PSAC Atlantic Council, RVP/NVP’s, local leadership and staff for their commitment and hard work in the Atlantic Region.
Lastly, you will find enclosed, the details of my activities from October through January.
Respectfully Submitted for your Approval,
Regional Executive Vice-President, Atlantic