September 2019 Message from the President

September Message from the President:

Clockwise – Top right: Shehnaz Motani and Susanne Lester at the Summer BBQ, President Karen Ranalletta with CUPE members and Minister Melanie Mark at the announcement of the safe campus campaign to end sexual violence in post-secondary, Karen and Felicia de la Parra at the UBC Sustainability celebration and Karen at an event women labour leaders to celebrate former CUPE National President and current Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy.

Hello Friends!

Welcome to the new term! I hope that you were able to take time off in the summer to recharge before the busy start of term. When I sat down to write this month’s message, it became clear that this place never slows down! We were busy in the union office and managed to find some time to take off ourselves. I am happy to report that we hit record numbers of members attending our annual summer BBQs – between the one at UBC Point Grey and the one at VGH, we saw almost 700 of you! We also attended the UBC Sustainability Soiree, and the retirement part for long serving Business Agent of CUPE 2278, Peter Lane.

We also filed 4 grievances and continue to support members in their accommodations and their return to work plans.

Here are some of the highlights of what has gone on this past summer.

UBC Staffing

We have been giving feedback to a number of selection committees in regards to senior administrative positions whose relationship with our union is important. This includes the Director of the Sexual Violence Prevention Response Office (SVPRO) and the Vice President, Human Resources.

Policy 131 – Sexual Violence and Misconduct/ Safe Campuses Campaign/Public Consultation on Paid Leave for Domestic and Sexual Violence

The union continues to have significant concerns over Policy 131 and its application for unionized staff. We have raised our concerns over and over with HR, Minister Melanie Mark, CUPE National, the Federal Government’s Advisory Committee on the Prevention and Elimination of Sexual Violence on Post-Secondary Campuses. At this point, we do not feel confident in the policy for bother survivors and respondents and will not recommend our members file complaints under Policy 131 under our concerns are addressed.

The good news is that the policy will be up for review this fall and we intend to make (another) submission.

On August 29th, I was invited to attend an event by Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training – Melanie Mark, at Emily Carr University, where the provincial government announced a $750k investment in a campaign to prevent sexual violence on campus. It’s edgy and doe not pull any punches. This has been top of mind since I was a student at UBC from 1999-2003 and remember the warnings about sexual assault like it was yesterday. If you are interested in further reflections and photos from the event please take a look at my facebook post. To check out the campaign: www.safecampusesbc.ca 

This year, the government announced a change to Employment Standards – that all workers in BC were entitled to 10 days of paid leave for survivors of domestic and family violence. On August 30th, along with fellow leaders from the labour movement, I was in attendance at an announcement by the Minister of Labour – Harry Bains, for public consultation on paid leave for domestic or sexual violence. This important issue has been bargained into many public sector contract this round and we anticipate putting a proposal forward at our ratification vote.

CUPE 2950 History Project Update

The next phase of digitizing the remaining 10k pages of historical materials has started and will be finished by the end of 2019.  The video of the story of how the local was organized and the first set of negotiations is now complete and the bronze plaque ready to be unveiled. I presented at the University of Alberta’s Labour and Libraries conference in Edmonton August 16th.

Our historical materials in UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections branch is one of the most comprehensive collections of feminist worker/activist holdings in any University in Canada. We have tracked down many of the original organizers and activists and will plan on holding a number of celebratory events this fall so watch your email for more information!

Labour Movement

Unite Here! Local 40 is going through very difficult negotiations with the Hotel Georgia which purports to be Vancouver’s 5 star luxury hotel. The reason why they have that five star rating is largely in part of the excellent work and services UNITE HERE 40 members provide. Their contract demands focus on job security, access to benefits and safety and security. Women reporting sexual harassment and violence has led to the employer cancelling bargaining dates, thus holding their wages and contract hostage. SHAME.

I have learned over the past few weeks that these workers, mostly women, are subjected to constant sexual harassment and abuse from a company that devalues and degrades women. Brave women in the local are coming forward to share their stories. Stories that will make your skin crawl. Stories of how power and money can lead to the worst in people – from lewd comments, to full on assault – dismissed by management. And these are just the stories we’ve heard from union members – can you imagine what’s going on in those non-union hotels? This is not the city I want to live in.

On July 23rd a motion was tabled at Vancouver City Council from Councillors Christine Boyle, and Jean Swanson to end sexual harassment and violence in Vancouver’s hospitality and service industries. After the challenges we faced at UBC during the Policy 131 “consultations” and implementation, I spoke to City Council to implore them to do better.

Our colleagues in CUPE 116  and CUPE 3799 (UNBC) settled their contracts before the summer and our friends in CUPE 4163 at UVIC have held a strike vote. The rest of the CUPE locals in the university sector are scheduled to commence bargaining this fall.

Finally, I look forward to seeing you at the September membership meeting where we will put our concept proposals on the floor for ratification. Once the proposals are ratified by the membership, we have set aside most of October to bargain hard for our next contract.

In solidarity,

Karen Ranalletta – President CUPE 2950