RICHMOND—For Day One of CUPE’s regional bargaining strategies conference, delegates attended four of a possible nine workshops on various issues CUPE locals are facing at the bargaining table this year:
- Understanding Demographics: With younger people entering the work force in recent years, as well as more immigrants and aboriginal people, CUPE demographics are changing. With these changes, the union faces challenges to adapt. Delegates learned the importance of changing along with our membership, and discussed ways that locals can adapt to better support their members.
- Dealing with Local Issues: Delegates learned how a union local’s issues can vary greatly by sector. While locals in some sectors, such as municipalities, find themselves dealing almost entirely with community-based issues, those from other sectors, such as social services and K-12, have a broader, more provincial focus. Delegates also discussed how to determine membership priorities and the best methods to reach members.
- Engaging Members: CUPE activists face challenges reaching the general membership and informing individual members about the union’s work and its value. Delegates learned how to engage members one-on-one, and discussed some of the tools that can help members get involved in union campaigns.
- Communications and Social Media: Social media is here to stay. That was the message in this workshop, which focused on educating delegates and eliminating fear around social media. Delegates learned about the value of Twitter and the opportunity it presents for locals and individual activists to engage with media, partners, and their communities online.
- Strike Aversion: The prospect of a looming strike can be intimidating for local unions, especially those with little or no experience in taking job action. In this workshop, the strike was discussed as one tool that can help locals achieve fair deals. Delegates learned some of the organizational and legal aspects of strikes and also shared personal strike experiences—positive and negative.
- Labour History: By reviewing the historical record on the evolution of labour rights, and the challenges unions have faced in different eras and socio-economic or political contexts, activists gain useful insight on how to tackle the challenges of today’s bargaining climate. This workshop charted the development of labour relations from the founding of guilds in the 1400s to CUPE BC’s solidarity actions with the HEU and BCTF in 2004-05.
- Legislative Framework: This workshop provided a general overview of the provisions of the Labour Relations Code of BC and other relevant statutes that affect the collective bargaining process. Delegates learned how legal protections for workers have been achieved and how the law is applied. They were also reminded of some of the “legislative hammers” the government has used to force CUPE members back to work, including those affecting K-12 support staff workers and ambulance paramedics.
- Economics for bargaining: This workshop examined CUPE’s record on achieving wage increases and looked at how these increases measure against the rising cost of living over the past decade. The findings from CUPE Research indicate that, on average, CUPE wages from 1998-2009 were behind the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. Delegates also learned that sectors performed differently depending on whether they were subject to provincial mandates: those that were did more poorly than those that were not.
- Building solidarity with other trade unions: Union activists face challenges trying to build cross-union connections that will improve the bargaining climate for everyone. This workshop defined “solidarity” and different ways of expressing it in a multi-union environment. Delegates also explored how solidarity can help us at the bargaining table, and came up with strategies for maintaining solidarity to achieve fair and equitable collective agreements.
For conference photos, visit the CUPE BC gallery.