In Memoriam – Annie MacPhee

In the early morning of Saturday, June 18, 2022, the first responder community lost Annie MacPhee. Annie was a paramedic for over 31 years and was an exemplary activist of CUPE Local 3324. She was a great paramedic, firefighter, and dedicated mother.

This is a tragic time for Annie’s family and friends. A GoFundMe page has been set up jointly between CUPE Local 3324, PAPEI, and Island E.M.S to assist her family with travel and other funeral-related expenses.

We send our deepest condolences to Annie’s family and friends, near and far.

42nd annual AGM – Day one

The 42nd Annual CUPE PEI Convention has begun! Over a hundred delegates and a dozen guests are currently present. Today, delegates will hear the presidents’ and secretary treasurers’ reports from both the Division and CUPE National. This will be followed by committee reports, and debate on resolutions concerning affordable housing, national pharmacare, improved non-profit nursing home funding, and more.

May Day is International Worker’s Day!

On May 1, workers around the world honour and draw inspiration from the activism and collective power that won the struggle for an eight‑hour workday. CUPE recognizes International Workers’ Day, or May Day, in solidarity with millions of workers worldwide.

Workers in Canada are part of the global movement that’s organizing for safe working conditions, a living wage with benefits and a pension, and quality public services for everyone.

Our collective demands for decent work, safety, dignity, and respect are urgent, as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crisis has exposed serious gaps and inequities in our country, and between countries. It has shown the devastating consequences when governments cut, privatize or neglect public services. The importance of strong public services, and the value of front-line workers, have never been more clear. Let’s make sure workers, and public-sector solutions, are at the heart of the post-pandemic recovery.

We have also seen how corrupt and authoritarian governments are using the pandemic as a smokescreen to crack down on workers and other people organizing for human rights. We stand in solidarity with movements around the world resisting repression.

International solidarity connects our struggles for labour rights, economic justice, racial justice, migrant justice, and climate justice. CUPE will keep strengthening worker-to-worker connections in the year ahead with migrant workers in Canada, and with our partners and allies in countries including Bangladesh, Burma, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and the Philippines.

This May Day, CUPE reiterates our call to the Canadian government to stop blocking COVID-19 vaccine access for low- and middle-income countries. Until all of us are safe, none of us are safe.

Actions you can take

  • The Trade Justice Network is holding a National Day of Action on a People’s Vaccine on May 1st. Send a message: tell your MP you want vaccine justice for all.
  • CUPE is inviting members and community leaders from all regions to a webinar on Global Vaccine Justice. On May 11, 2022, take part in a discussion with international solidarity experts on how Big Pharma greed is drawing out the pandemic. about what Canada can do. Register today at cupe.ca/vaccine-justice to learn what Canada must do to end vaccine inequity.
  • Take part in May Day celebrations and rallies in your region.

Day of Mourning Ceremony

April 28, 2022 marks the third Workers’ Day of Mourning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 40 years ago, CUPE members created this day to remember workers who lost their lives on the job and to inspire others to advocate to prevent further tragedies.

Please join us to this year’s  Day of Mourning Ceremony, which is organized by the PEI Federation of Labour:

Day of Mourning Ceremony
St. Paul’s Hall, 101 Prince Street, Charlottetown
Thursday, April 28, 2022, at 7:00 p.m.
Contact info: Carl Pursey, President 902-626-7996

Remembering your four rights

The Day of Mourning was created by CUPE members 40 years ago to remember those who lost their lives on the job and to inspire other workers to advocate to prevent further tragedies.

As trade unionists, it is our responsibility to continue this fight. We must ensure that all workers know about the four workers’ rights enshrined in every health and safety law in the country:

  • The right to refuse work you believe is unsafe until an investigation can be carried out;
  • The right to participate in deciding what is safe in the workplace and to report hazards;
  • The right to information on any hazard in the workplace that may cause harm, and how to prevent that harm;
  • The right to be free from reprisal for carrying out any of the other rights or any other requirement of health and safety law.

Government responsive to CUPE PEI recommendations in 2022-2023 budget, but still more to do

Charlottetown – The Island Government has been responsive to CUPE PEI’s recommendations for the 2022-2023 budget, but there remains still much more to do.

The Union notes positive investments in public transit and social assistance levels: “Fuel, food and overall cost of living is going up, so we are relieved to see action on those files,” said Leonard Gallant, President of CUPE PEI. “Many of our recommendations have been addressed, and that is remarkable,”

After a difficult year with low staffing hurting workers in healthcare and long-term care, CUPE PEI is relieved to see measures to improve staffing levels in hospitals. “This Government has no choice but to deal with the recruitment and retention crisis. I hope the much needed LTC review will recognize COVID-19 amplified a problem that existed long before. Workers need the measures and investments promised put in place as soon as possible,” said Gallant.

On housing, CUPE PEI had advocated and lobbied government to develop a coherent system to protect tenants from ever increasing costs, while improving the affordable housing offer. “This year’s budget contains a $5 million fund to help municipalities increase housing starts, but the affordable housing portion lacks details. The housing crisis is deepening for middle and low-income Islanders. I think the government should have been more aggressive in providing the funds to protect tenants and better target publicly owned affordable housing,” said Gallant.

“We welcome the major federal-provincial investment in childcare this year. That is certainly a big plus, but nowhere do we see that the provincial Government will focus on creating publicly owned and/or not-for profit operated spaces,” said Gallant. Rather, this government said they prefer to “work with the industry”. We hope Premier King will recognize that parents need affordable and universal childcare, where the profit-making business approach should not be the principal model out there.

“One big missing item which I mention every year is the need of a more progressive taxation system. Billionaires and millionaires have made record profits during the pandemic. Yet our government still lets them off with unjustifiably low corporate tax rate of 1%. If this rate is not adjusted, the “pandemic bill” will end up being footed by those who benefited the least and did the heavy lifting to get us out of the crisis,” concluded Gallant.

Respite care program workers concerned with safety conditions

CUPE Local 3260, which represents school education support staff workers, calls on the PEI Government to pause individual respite care programs when working conditions are unsafe.

Respite care is in place in all schools across the province, providing support for students with special needs who are currently supported by educational support staff.

“When our members are not provided with proper personal protective equipment or when there are COVID-positive cases in specific workplaces, those programs should be paused. Unfortunately, the province is still prioritizing program continuation, despite increased health risks for students and staff,” states Carolyn Vandaele, CUPE Local 3260 President.

For many Local 3260 members, it has become clear the play-based respite care programming for students with educational support plans is not working as well as intended.

  • Proper PPE is still not yet provided to all workers who are required to have close contact with students who cannot wear masks.
  • With 62 separate respite programs running, too many implementation variations exist throughout the province with regards to testing protocols, enforcing mask-wearing, and student-to-staff ratios.
  • A shortage of rapid tests last week meant that the employer changed the testing rules instead of shutting down programming until testing protocols could be maintained.

“Education workers want a commitment from this government that they will pause programs when safe working conditions cannot be ensured,” concluded Vandaele.

“With the contagion risks from the Omicron variant, no program of this nature should be run at all costs. Student and worker safety must be the priority,” said CUPE President Leonard Gallant. “We support Local 3260’s effort to make sure Education workers are not taken for granted by King government,” he concluded.

CUPE Local 3260 represents over 800 Educational Assistants, Youth Service Workers, Workplace Assistants, Student Attendants and Educational Language Interpreter in the PEI school system.

Province did the right thing in pushing back in-person learning

Charlottetown – Four union locals representing more than 1 300 education sector workers breathe a sigh of relief as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that PEI schools have pushed back in-person learning to January 17, 2022.

Before Tuesday’s announcement by Dr. Morrison, students were to return to classrooms for in-person learning on January 10. This deadline had education workers worried about the students’ and workers’ safety.

“The four union locals (CUPE Locals 1145, 1770, 1775 & 3260) had productive talks with the Director of the Public Schools Branch and the HR Director this morning, before today’s announcement,” said Karen Tsistinas, CUPE National Representative. “We were concerned with the potential return to work next week and discussed the consideration of pushing back the in-person learning date, as we felt rushing this jeopardized workers’ and students’ well-being and safety,” she added.

The education system is a unique structure. Following COVID protocols is not easy, as you can have at times 70 students on a bus over 20 students in classrooms, and many students moving to and from class. “The union and the employers are committed to finding solutions to minimize these numbers to reduce overall contacts.  The concerns of staff and student safety and the need for specific guidelines are of utmost importance and must be adhered to by both staff and students in order to safely administer a Respite Program. Members are anxiously waiting to hear what this program will look like and getting back to working with their students,” said Karen Tsistinas, CUPE National Representative.

“Management has been receptive to the concerns we bring forward on behalf of our members and we are pleased to maintain the collaborative approach we developed during the pandemic. Staff is looking forward to being back with the students and working with them in a safe environment,” added Tsistinas.

In the meeting, directors committed to providing human resource support for all categories of work, including increased short-term staffing. “As we are examining their January 17 plan, we are relieved to see there has been some thought put in to deal with the workload increases and addressing shortfalls in staffing ahead of us,” concluded Tsistinas.

  • CUPE Local 3260 represents over 800 Educational Assistants and Youth Service Workers, Student Attendants, Workplace Assistants, and English Language Interpreters in the PEI school system. Carolyn Vandaele is the president.
  • CUPE Local 1145 represents more than 350 school bus drivers. Jason MacKinnon is the president.
  • CUPE Local 1770 represents over 130 administrative support workers. The acting president is Sawyer Murphy.
  • CUPE Local 1775 represents over 340 property maintenance workers in schools. John Doucette is the president.