From the REVP’s desk: January 2017 activity report

Political Action and Mobilization

At the federal level, PSAC and the Treasury Board returned to bargaining mid-December with the help of a mediator. PSAC continues to strive for healthier workplaces, strong public services and wages that keep up with rising inflation. Problems continue to mount with the failed Phoenix Pay System, with personal anecdotes continuing to surface of members who have been driven destitute after failing to receive their pay for months. The issue is further compounded over the holiday season, where bills pile up as our members try to provide for their families. PSAC continues to hold the government accountable for the Phoenix fiasco.

In conjunction with PSAC National, we kept the pressure on the federal government and Minister Foote, through both social media channels and mainstream media. Lines of communications with our members were, as always, kept open.

Yukon’s Liberal Party won a majority government in a major upset, ending the 14-year rule of the conservative Yukon Party. Liberal leader Sandy Silver became the territory’s ninth premier, and the first from Yukon’s original capital of Dawson City.

As part of our community involvement efforts to address local socio-economic issues, we participated in the Anti-Poverty Roundtable organized by the Government of the Northwest Territories in Inuvik. An action plan to combat poverty in NWT’s communities was put together and will be finalized with further input from leaders across the territory.

PSAC North activists worked together to scuttle the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. I served as a witness before the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade during a public consultation to decry the effects the agreement would have on Canadian labour. PSAC North also hosted an evening of discussion on the TPP’s impacts to labour with Green Party candidate Brenda Sayers. Our staff also attended a consultation on the TPP with NWT Liberal MP Michael McLeod.

Alternatives North, Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Northern Territories Federation of Labour gave out food for thought Monday, October 17 at the Yellowknife Post Office. Snacks were provided to the public along with a postcard residents could mail to federal Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, calling for meaningful consultation in the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. Chew on This! is a public awareness event to bring attention to poverty and the need to act so all Canadians have adequate food to eat, housing and other necessities. Chew on This! is promoted by Canada Without Poverty and Citizens for Public Justice. The Yellowknife event is one of many Chew on This! events across Canada.

Members in Yellowknife plant-gated at the federal Greenstone Building downtown at noon on Monday, October 31. Members dressed up in costumes and handed out treats and flyers, while staff held placards with the PSAC messaging for Collective Bargaining and the Phoenix Pay System displayed on placards. It was an opportunity to take action and have a little fun at the same time.

PSAC Parks Canada members in Iqaluit came together to send a message to Ottawa. Information packages were distributed to all members in attendance and a brief overview on their recent bargaining was provided. They called on the Liberals to drop the Conservative agenda and return to the table with proposals that respect workers and strengthen public services. They also asked Trudeau to live up to his election promise to be a partner – rather than an adversary – to federal workers.

PSAC North continues to strive to reach 100% renewable energy in the NWT. Alternatives North released a research report entitled “100% Renewable Energy in the NWT by 2050”, which PSAC helped fund through the Social Justice Fund. Our staff also organized a lunch-and-learn with the lead researcher and Alternatives North in December.

Our office attended a presentation and luncheon to commemorate International Human Rights Day. It included a short presentation about the work the Human Rights Commission has been doing as well as a presentation by the department of Education, Culture and Employment on introducing Aboriginal Reconciliation in the NWT’s classrooms.

On December 6, The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, PSAC North staff attended and helped out Yukon Aboriginal Peoples Committee and Regional Women’s Committee  as they sponsor snacks and refreshments every year. Regional Office staff in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit also attended vigils on the National Day of Remembrance in their respective communities.

In the last few editions of the bi-monthly Labour Views column published in the Yellowknifer, I drew attention to the need for electoral reform in Canada’s political system to achieve proportional representation, and highlighted the important rights all citizens should have in the face of corporations.

Through our assistance to communities program, we have established donations for the NWT Disabilities Council, CCDA tour, Feed the People BBQ

Regional Committees

There are currently 22 regional committees operating in our region. While the distances and flight costs pose major challenges to meeting in person, I continue to join meetings via teleconference, and ensure support is offered as needed. Our Regional Council will meet January 18, then again in person prior to Regional Triennial Convention June 16.

To strengthen the work of the committees and ensure consistency across the territories, I have committed to developing draft Terms of Reference for the various committee categories to better offer a framework that can be applied to all committees across the region. Throughout the fall, I finalized the drafts, which were approved by Regional Council.

As always, I am grateful to work in conjuncture with members so dedicated to advance social, economic and environmental justice for Northerners and Canadians as a whole.

Bridge building, education and membership engagement

Nearly three years ago I made a commitment to my Sisters and Brothers from across the North that I will conquer geographic barriers and bridge the territories by reaching out to members from communities all across the North, es­pecially youth members. I continue to make good on that promise and have recently met with members from Inuvik, Kugluktuk, Gjoa Haven, Iqaluit and Yellowknife. Listening to their stories helped me form a better notion of what makes PSAC North thrive, and where we can work to become even better in the coming months and hopefully years together.

PSAC North is proud to offer members a comprehensive union education program, providing members with learning opportunities to develop knowledge and leadership skills.

The educational opportunities offered to Northern members in the second half of the year have been plentiful. PSAC Regional Representatives delivered several weekend training sessions across the North. These opportunities include Teaching Union Basics, Violence in the Workplace, Impacts of TPP on Labour, Understanding and Interpreting your Collective Agreement and many other rewarding programs.

In October, PSAC North accomplished an historic first, hosting its inaugural Racially Visible Conference in Whitehorse that welcomed dedicated members from across the North to discuss the issues that affect them deeply. It was a productive conference that outlined a new direction to follow in the coming years.

Regional field coordinators offered Joint Learning Program workshops in Iqaluit in November, with the goal of improving workplace labour relations and improving core public service administration.

Alongside education, membership engagement and empowerment happens when members come together in a safe space and share their lived experiences, concerns, and plans to address those challenges. As such, a large part of our work is to create those spaces and make those events happen seamlessly for our members. To that end, preparations are underway for the PSAC North Regional Convention in Yellowknife this June, and the Regional Women’s Conference in Toronto in May.

Collective bargaining

Dominion Diamond Corporation: With talks resuming in January, we’ve ramped up our communications efforts to make our presence known to the employer bargaining team. Our next two issues of Labour Views will focus on DDC’s move to the South accompanied by letters to the editor from members.

Treasury Board: Talks continue for our federal members with the help of a mediator, although the employer is still stalling any real progress.

Qulliq Energy Corporation: Members help a successful bargaining conference in Iqaluit this November to solidify their plans for negotiating a new collective agreement.

GNWT: While progress remains slow, negotiations continue for members of the Government of the Northwest Territories who are bargaining for their new collective agreement.

We remain confident that the determination and dedication of our members and staff will eventually lead to obtaining fair deals that benefit all members in our Northern communities.

Campaigns and community involvement

Living Wage: The program was not funded this year, so remaining funds will be used for yearly updates of the Living Wage calculations. The No Place for Poverty Coalition that PSAC North is part of continues to work on poverty-related issues. There have been meetings to discuss issues that could be tackled, and a strategy to be pushed for at the Anti-Poverty roundtable.

Healthy Apple: Our campaign is currently focusing on Iqaluit, where the need for food banks continues to rise. We have partnered with several organizations to help fund and supply small food banks.

100% Renewable Energy NWT research project: In an effort to create a renewed vision for the NWT, one of our NWT allies, Alternatives North, has partnered with a local energy expert to develop a research paper, an infographic and public consultations on these key topics.

As a strong believer in the urgency of transitioning to a greener economy, our office continues to support this initiative.

Common Front NWT: An event was held October 1 highlighting the recent developments at the territorial and federal levels, as well as to finalize a draft Common Front NWT Charter; currently all organizations are in the process of formally adopting and signing the Charter. The front will reconvene in January.

Other updates

Staffing: Michael Aubry has returned from his parental leave and resumes his position as political communications officer. In the shuffle, Cristina returned to her role as assistant to the REVP.

Laurie Sawler, who was filling in for Cristina, has taken on the role of administrative assistant for the Iqaluit RO, while Kim Bailey is serving a two-month term as Regional Representative. Meanwhile, Kim’s position is being filled by Judy Payne.

The end of October marked the grand opening of the Union of Northern Workers building in Yellowknife, officially named the North Star Building, which now houses all sides of labour – the UNW, PSAC North and the Northern Territories Federation of Labour.

We have worked to reconfigure our regional website to make it more accessible to our members.

Registration for the 2017 Regional Triennial Convention will close January 15, whereby the official delegate list will be finalized.

We look forward to a productive rest of the term and a successful 2017 Regional Triennial Convention!

Respectfully submitted,

Jack Bourassa

Regional Executive Vice-President, North