CUPE PEI’s Reaction to the Island’s 2021-2022 Budget

Charlottetown, March 12, 2021 – Today, PEI Finance Minister Darlene Compton announced a reasonable provincial operations budget, which integrates and will implement many CUPE recommendations. The bulk of the budget focuses on healthcare improvements and many community-support measures.

“More than ever, it is time to focus on people and their well-being. It’s reassuring to see the PEI Government decided to not just maintain services and assistance residents rely on, but to invest in them,” said Gallant. “This is crucial for the coming recovery. I consider this a little victory,” said Leonard Gallant, President of CUPE PEI.

CUPE welcomes investments in childcare spaces and calls on the government to ensure that these spaces remain affordable and publicly run facilities. Healthcare investments, notably on access to care for rural residents, seniors’ care, mental health and addiction care will not go unnoticed. “A $4 million investment for 80 new front-line positions in our schools, including teachers, autism consultants, educational assistants, and bus drivers are well taken,” said Gallant.

Our union had advocated and lobbied government to develop a comprehensive public transit system in the province. The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure will now have the funds ($250,000) to have experts study and publish a public transit plan by summer 2021. “I call on the government to use the funds to increase the capacity of the public service to develop this plan, and not to privatize the consulting services needed on this important initiative,” said Gallant.  “I am glad to see they listened to workers and will implement pilot routes in the coming September,” he added.

Government has also recognized it has to deal with the growing housing crisis. “While the rent supplement program is not the best way to deal with the issue and lacks ambition, I am glad to see government recognizes the need to do more on this file,” said Gallant.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see increased funding to Legal Aid and the Human Rights Commission to improve access to justice,” added Gallant. CUPE PEI also notes the positive increase made to the Black cultural society, Pride PEI, PEERS Alliance and to the Interministerial Women Secretariat.  “This recognizes how the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and marginalized communities, and that no one should be left behind,” said Gallant.

“One big missing item which I would have loved to see is a more progressive taxation system. With a reasonable increase in revenues from corporate and top income earners, we could have top of the line childcare and health services to really kick-start our recovery,” concluded Gallant.

Interesting Initiatives Promised in PEI Throne Speech

Charlottetown – The PEI Throne speech, skillfully delivered by Lt. Governor Antoinette Perry, contained many interesting proposals for Island workers.

“Beyond the well-received gratitude and thanks to front-line workers, including public sector workers of all stripes, we appreciate it’s consensus-building content and tone,” said Leonard Gallant, President of CUPE PEI.https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/sites/default/files/styles/node_featured_image/public/images/information/speechgthrone20121eng743_0.jpg?itok=Nfr9kiYt

CUPE PEI is also interested in initiatives such as the improvements to the “Care at Home” program, supports preventing gender-based violence, protections for temporary-foreign workers along anti-poverty measures and a stronger Freedom of Information Act.

“Of course, the devil will be in the details, but I can say that it’s great to hear that there is a path to get towards a universal childcare program, have more front line supports for recruitment and retention and help for our seniors,” added Gallant.

However, CUPE PEI is alarmed by the creation of three “Tax-Free development zones” for Green tech companies that want to do work on PEI.  “Creating more tax havens is a bad idea for the long term, it deepens the problem of legalized tax avoidance. This, in turn, accelerates the race to the bottom (in terms of taxation) with other jurisdictions, and denies crucial funding to municipalities, public services and provincial governments,” noted Gallant.

“Everybody needs to do their share, from individuals to businesses, to help in the recovery and to fund schools, hospitals, clean drinking water, etc.,” said Gallant. “Being “Green” should never absolve anyone from upholding basic “corporate citizen” duties.

P.E.I. unions raise concerns about safety in schools in the event of COVID-19 community spread

The Guardian, article by

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — The heads of several union locals representing education staff say cohorting of students is not happening in many Island schools, and they are raising concerns about worker and student safety in the event of community spread on P.E.I.

Five representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) spoke before P.E.I.’s standing committee on education and economic growth on Tuesday. Four of these representatives currently work within the school system in P.E.I. as educational assistants, bus drivers, administrative assistants and custodial staff.

A key theme of the presentations focused on the possibility of community spread of COVID-19 or of outbreaks such as those that are ongoing in Campbellton and Moncton, New Brunswick.

Lori MacKay, a CUPE national servicing representative, began the meeting by saying she was impressed by the immediate response of the province to the pandemic in March.

Lori MacKay of the Canadian Union of Public Employees is shown at a standing committee on education and economic growth in Charlottetown on Tuesday, where she expressed concerns about plans for maintaining safety in schools in the event of community spread of COVID-19 on P.E.I. - Computer screenshot
Lori MacKay of the Canadian Union of Public Employees is shown at a standing committee on education and economic growth in Charlottetown on Tuesday, where she expressed concerns about plans for maintaining safety in schools in the event of community spread of COVID-19 on P.E.I

However, MacKay said she is currently unclear about what will occur within P.E.I.’s school system in the event of community spread. She said cohorting in P.E.I. high schools is not happening and described it as “a figment of anybody’s imagination”.

“I’ve had people say to me ‘I feel like I’m the canary in the coal mine’ or ‘we’re the sacrificial lamb going in’ because there’s no cohorting,” MacKay said. “I think we have to put our minds to how do we address it once it happens.”

MacKay added she has not received any questions from school staff about whether they have a right to refuse work, as the lack of community spread has kept such anxieties low.

But she said this would likely change in the event of community spread of COVID-19 on P.E.I.

“If a worker came to me tomorrow with no community spread, based on the model that they have today, I don’t believe that they have a case. But it’s not going to take much for somebody to say they do,” MacKay said.

MacKay suggested a worker who refused to work due to fears of safety involving community spread of COVID-19 would have some right to do so under health and safety laws.

CUPE was involved in summer consultations by education planners about the reopening plan for schools on P.E.I. Provincial staff had spoken about contingencies in case of an outbreak of COVID-19 but has few details included in the province’s return to school guideline.

In August, the Department of Education announced plans to hire close to 160 additional staff positions in advance of the reopening of schools. About 62 of these positions would be for custodial staff, close to 11 would be educational assistants and 31 would be for administrative assistants.

But in response to a question from Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald, representatives from CUPE said these new staff have provided limited relief for existing school staff.

Karen Tsistinas, president of CUPE Local 1770, which represents administrative assistants, said her local had urged the province to top-up part-time staff to full-time hours.

Instead the province provided the additional hours for staff at a “level 9” classification, meaning the work would be performed at a lower pay rate and the work requires a lower skill level.

Karen Tsistinas, who works as an administrative assistant with the public schools branch, said new admin staff have been hired at a lower wage rate than existing staff. - Computer screenshot
Karen Tsistinas, who works as an administrative assistant with the public schools branch, said new admin staff have been hired at a lower wage rate than existing staff.

“We’ve kind of had several conversations with a lot of members that aren’t happy that, if their shift was over at 1:30 and they decided to take these extra hours, they’d only be paid at a level 9,” Tsistinas said.

Tsistinas said she was not sure what qualifications were required from the new hires.

Carolyn Vandaele, president of CUPE local 3260, which represents educational assistants, said the 10.5 full-time equivalent staff hired as EA’s would also be offered a different pay scale as relief workers, as allowed under the current union agreement.

Neither union president said the differing pay scales were in contravention of the union agreement provisions for temporary staff.

SOURCE:https://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/pei-unions-raise-concerns-about-safety-in-schools-in-the-event-of-covid-19-community-spread-509563/

 

CUPE PEI Reaction to the Island’s 2020-2021 Budget

On June 17 2020, PEI Finance Minister Darlene Compton presented the PEI Government’s provincial operational budget.

The PEI Government has chosen a middle of the road budget, which “supports both employees and employers,” as Minister Compton said. The Canadian Union of Public Employees’ Prince Edward Island Division is pleased to see that this Government has made the right decision, during this pandemic, to steer clear from the disastrous path of austerity.

“I commend the investments in K-12 education, the post-secondary education contingency fund, the active transportation network, support to housing, climate action initiatives, investment in crucial non-profits and the public sector,” noted Leonard Gallant, President of CUPE PEI.

While CUPE PEI notes the positive investments made in health, there is concern over many front-line workers being forgotten: “I am concerned there was not a recognition of the recruitment and retention issues facing front-line workers in healthcare such as licenced practical nurses, orderlies, patient care support, clerical, environmental services and many more,” said Gallant. “Their dedication to beat the pandemic was and continues to be admirable,” said Gallant.

CUPE PEI advocates for investment of public money in worker support, childcare, publicly owned and run infrastructure. “The trend of encouraging for-profit, rather than public care, is perhaps what irritates me the most in this overall fair budget,” concluded Gallant.

“Everybody needs to do their share, from individuals to businesses, to help in the recovery,” said Gallant. “Workers are doing their part for sure. I hope, when budget details get worked out in each Department, workers get the full acknowledgement they deserve,” concluded Gallant.

PEI Workers Need Wage Recognition

Charlottetown – As Prime Minister Trudeau announced a $4 Billion Wage Top-up program targeting essential service workers in every province, CUPE PEI believes the Island government should improve wages of all front-line workers and expand the recognition to include all that have been tirelessly providing care and services since the beginning. 

“We commend the Governments in working towards compensating front-line workers and recognizing that many are low wage earners, but the format used could indeed miss the mark and cause inequity from those receiving the benefit,” said Leonard Gallant, president of CUPE PEI Division.  

The Federal Government has accepted to pay 75% of the expenses of its cost-shared Wage Recognition program. Each province is responsible for the remaining 25%.

“Nothing prevents PEI Premier King to improve wages beyond the scope of this program. We have overstretched and overburdened public sector staff in many sectors which should benefit from wage improvements,” said Gallant.

“From healthcare to long-term care, from community care to all others deemed essential who have been facing the challenges head on from the onset providing services for PEI throughout the first stages of this pandemic, the time is right to promote the premise of a living wage and look at all sectors on PEI,” he added.

Gallant says PEI has been plagued with low wages for too long and taking care of front-line workers is the best way to give our province a good economic boost.

“Coupled with our relatively enviable position in the current context, boosting our local economy will give us an edge. It would make the Island even more attractive to newcomers too,” said Gallant.  “We need to explore the idea of improving the wages of public and private sector workers offering many of them a living wage,” he concluded

CUPE PEI notes that even before the Federal announcement was made, Ontario, BC, Quebec and many other provinces had already begun a wage top up program for front-line workers. 

CUPE PEI represents over 3300 members on the Island in many sectors such as municipalities, healthcare and education. Our mandate is to advocate for equality and fairness for all workers. 

CERB Works, Cheap Labour Does Not

Charlottetown, May 6, 2020 – CUPE PEI denounces PEI Premier Dennis King’s plan to reduce the reach of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for PEI residents.

Premier Dennis King in Georgetown, PEI.

“Premier King wants to downgrade the CERB in order to force PEI residents to take underpaid work,” said Leonard Gallant, president of the PEI Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

CUPE PEI is of the opinion that encouraging workers to fill job vacancies does not require cutting benefits to workers who lost employment because of COVID-19.

“It’s very disappointing to see the Premier spread the idea that Islanders need “negative incentives” to work. Does he think Islanders deserve less than residents of any other province?” wonders Gallant.

The Premier’s declaration seems to ignore PEI’s relative high cost of living and recent housing price crisis.

“Islanders will work for good wages and decent conditions. If those unfilled jobs paid better, they would be taken up quite quickly. That’s why we call it the “Labour Market,” said Gallant.

For many years, CUPE PEI has advocated for a minimum wage that is a true “living wage” for all.

“We invite Premier King to turn his head to improving wages and lives of all. We should aim to do better than a “cheap labour” economy,” concluded Gallant.

CUPE PEI represents over 3300 members on the Island in many sectors such as municipalities, healthcare and education.

CUPE PEI Update on COVID-19 – April 21 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Thanks to a fortunate mix of hard work, patience, front-line efforts, geography and a pinch of luck, PEI and NB are both experiencing below average progression rates of COVID-19.

Despite this relatively enviable position in our country, the Federal government has not indicated when they will seriously consider loosening public health restrictions to reopen the domestic economy. This will be likely done in phases with some regions and industries starting sooner than others. It is too early to say what will happen.

Members are doing important work across both provinces in our region during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the public is noticing. This is good news for us, as before this crisis, too many front-line workers were forgotten or underappreciated by government. Keep up the good work!


The CUPE Maritimes staff is doing phenomenal work and I want to recognize their efforts. They have been “behind the scenes” working long hours ensuring CUPE members are having their rights respected and that information that members need is being shared. We have daily staff calls to share information and work collaboratively and this united and consistent approach is working very well in our region.

Bargaining Paused Until May 11th

As you were already aware of the bargaining talks being paused, I wanted to let you that there will be no bargaining at least until May 11th, 2020. On that day, we will reassess the situation and inform members. For the moment, government and employer negotiators cannot meet, as there is still not enough safety to permit gatherings or hold in person talks.

Meeting virtually and doing union business in a new way

As you were already aware of the bargaining talks being paused, I wanted to let you that there will be no bargaining at least until May 11th, 2020. On that day, we will reassess the situation and inform members. For the moment, government and employer negotiators cannot meet, as there is still not enough safety to permit gatherings or hold in person talks.

ass gatherings will likely not be feasible until restrictions are lifted in many, many months from here. Therefore, every local should do all they can to have the capacity to conduct all necessary business according to their bylaws. This means adopting new technologies and online meeting tools. Talk to your servicing reps on electronic voting tools and the best way to keep conducting union business.

REMINDER: Every CUPE member must register online so that we can have emergency communication lines and electronic voting capacity. Please ask your local union rep for the registration link.

It is very important that you add your current local number in the form. If you do not know your local number, please clearly indicate the employer you work for (where you work) in the box titled “Name of Employer”.
Personal cellphone numbers (not work cellphones) are needed to ensure mass member emergency texting. To keep our lists as “clean” as possible, we ask that you do not post the links on social media.

Updates on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and EI Emergency Response Benefit (EI-ERB)

CERB has been expanded and made more flexible. The federal government is making changes to aid seasonal workers without jobs and those whose hours have been drastically cut but who still have some income. The changes will also allow people who are making up to $1,000 a month to qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, as well as those whose employment insurance benefits have run out since the start of the calendar year.

For those doing jobs deemed essential and making less than $2,500 a month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will top up their pay to encourage them to keep going into work during the health and economic crisis.

To apply to the CERB, visit : https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Servicing Representative.

In Soldarity,

Sandy Harding
Maritimes Regional Director

Easter Message

Hello all,

Thank you to all CUPE PEI members for their hard work and dedication during this COVID-19 pandemic. Here at CUPE PEI, we have been working on several things over this past week. This week, we recorded a radio ad that everyone should start hearing shortly thanking all CUPE members and all essential workers for their work during this difficult time. We are also currently putting together a COVID-19 webpage for information for membership during this time and it should be ready very soon. More details on that to come.

The National Executive Board continues to have weekly phone conference calls to deal with issues. They have waived all CUPE National initiation fees (one-time fee for new members or any members that were not in good standing) until December 31, 2020.The National Presidents office is giving Locals some extended time to arrange how Local business will continue, if you need clarity or if you have any questions please contact your servicing representative.

The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit applications started this week, and applicants should shortly start to see those payments. CUPE National is working with the Federal government to ensure the benefits applies to more workers, including seasonal workers and students who have been unable to secure employment due to the pandemic. Please remember that this benefit will be included in taxable income for the year 2020.

The Chief Health Office has begun to increase the amount of testing for COVID-19. We are hearing from them that we need to continue the self isolating and social distancing. We are doing good, but we are not done with COVID-19 yet.

CUPE PEI is planning the when and where our AGM will take place we will have more information on this next week. We are sure this past month has reminded everyone just how important public services are and, as people, we sometimes take these services for granted. Lets ensure we all take some time this Easter Weekend to thank the people providing services to us and those who are in need during these difficult times.

Happy Easter, Stay Safe

Leonard Gallant

Letter to CUPE members on the Island

Good Afternoon

This is unprecedented times as everyone is saying but it truly is uncharted waters as we have never seen before. CUPE PEI want to assure you that we have been working with all levels of Government to help navigate us through this difficult time. The Provincial Government has been doing a good job keeping up with the ongoing changes as directed by the Chief Health Officer.

The National Executive Board is meeting via Conference Call on a regular basis, we have been discussing discussion what to do as a National union and through those discussions Mark and Charles have been taking our direction.

We have talked to a number of Provincial Ministers and those were very good discussions around front line workers and the great work they are doing as well as the importance that our members be afforded the proper PPE to ensure their safety in the workplace.

We also have been having discussions abut ensuring that our members, as well as public servants, will continue to be at work and not face lay offs. Minister MacKay committed to CUPE PEI that this Government had no plans of laying off public servants and were also encouraging private sector employers to keep as many staff on the payroll as possible.

We want to ensure members that CUPE PEI is here for them and we will continue to work to ensure that this pandemic has as little impact on our members as possible. CUPE PEI will now be having weekly conference calls to deal with any issues that may arise and need to be dealt with. We will continue giving daily updates as much as possible from the Chief Health Officer and any other information that we receive.

We will get through this we have to continue social distancing and self isolating where directed. Please remember to reach out to family, friends, neighbours who may just want to have a conversation to know they are not forgotten. My cell number is 902 315 0525 please feel free to call if you need my assistance or if you have suggestions on things you would like us to do as a Union. Stay Safe.

In Solidarity,

Leonard Gallant
President
CUPE PEI