Council Digs into Work After the Summer Break

October 5, 2015

The October meeting of MoveUP’s executive council always boasts a full agenda as it is the first time that councillors meet following the summer break. This meeting also marked the first time the new executive board met in person since the election results of the contested positions were announced late the night of Friday, October 2nd. Accordingly, the morning started by swearing in the new executive board and wishing the union’s new leadership the best for their three-year terms.

As part of the communications report, Communications Director Sage Aaron reviewed the union’s efforts to put pressure on BCAA to end lockout. These efforts have included radio ads, a well-attended rally on the Willingdon overpass, leafleting Evo cars and creative leafleting at Evo’s Summer Cinema Series in Stanley Park which involved costumes and aerial banner plane fly-overs. Aaron also provided a review of the rebranding project and completed milestones, including the research and testing phases. The new brand will launch at the upcoming convention next month.

During President David Black’s report, he informed council about the major organizational changes happening at FortisBC. Fortis is centralizing certain aspects of their operations which is proving to be – at the very minimum – very disruptive for to MoveUP’s membership there. The union is working hard to anticipate and mitigate any negative impacts to our membership.

Black also reported out on the BC Hydro contracting in grievance. The union is working with the employer to get this longstanding issue resolved and feel as though progress is being made, albeit slowly.  

Turning to other issues that affect MoveUP’s membership, Black said, “I hear on the news this that the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement was signed this morning. This agreement supersedes the NAFTA agreement negotiated in the 1990s and may have drastic effect on this union. Details that have leaked, because the deal was signed in secrecy, imply that there may be very negative consequences for public enterprise. So this may limit governments from owning Crown corporations, and for us that’s a danger to our members at BC Hydro, ICBC, BC Transit, TransLink and more. We will be looking at the agreement closely.”

Under business arising from the president’s report, Lori Mayhew spoke to the Political Action Committee report. As part of her report she moved endorsement of Tom Mulcair and NDP in the federal election. “Tom and the NDP have the best plan for working people,” said Mayhew. “The NDP’s plan will prioritize health care, work to make retirement more secure, provide solutions to Canada’s child care crisis, and concentrate on increasing the availability of good jobs and growing the economy.” Council approved the endorsement.

Further to the president’s report, Vice President Annette Toth then took to the floor to praise Research Officer Iain Reeve’s work on the BC Utilities Commission file. She explained to council how the work he did exposing some of ICBC’s more dubious practices was so valued by the Commission that they reimbursed the union some of the costs of intervening.

President Black then moved to the COPE SEPB report. The national executive board is meeting next month in Toronto, and the main order of business will be the COPE SEPB convention, to be held in June, in Toronto.

Speaking to the Global Union Federation report, Black said that he will be attending a UNI Global Union conference in Turkey later in October. The Quebec section of COPE SEPB is sending five attendees and Black stated his hope that more and more of the Global Union conferences will be taken up by the national union.

Rysa Kronebusch and Susan Orr the reported out on the IndustriALL Women’s Conference they recently attended with Vice President Gwenne Farrell in Vienna. During that conference, Farrell was elected as one of the co-chairs of IndustriALL’s women’s committee.

While the conference highlighted many of the challenges women face at work the world over – sexual harassment, getting fired for being pregnant, terrible factory conditions, no chance for advancement and a gendered wage scale – one of Orr’s most moving and uplifting experiences came after the conference was over, on October 3rd.

Orr had a free day and went Maria-Theresien-Platz, a large public square. When she arrived she saw thousands of people marching with flags, including the flags of local unions. As she was watching the march a young man approached her with a leaflet. Orr tried to demur, saying that she was just a tourist. In broken English the young man explained that it was alright and that the march was for Voices for Refugees. “He told me that they believed every person should have human dignity, and that the world belongs to everyone. He said we shouldn’t shut people out,” said Orr. The young man invited her into the march. Orr looked for guidance from a policeman who was standing nearby, who indicated that, yes, she would be fine. Orr joined the march and found company with other trade unionists. She followed the march to its terminus, a multi-act concert held in support of Syrian refugees. While there, she was interviewed by a local Viennese news station. “I told them I was happy to be with my union brother and sisters, and my union shares their beliefs in human rights, compassion and justice,” she said.  

After a brief break, Secretary-Treasurer Lori Mayhew went through the union’s finances with council by reviewing the statements of revenue and expenses for the months of May, April, June, July and August, as well as the balance sheets for those months, the defence fund receivable and the defence fund first and second quarter statement. Members examined the statements and asked Mayhew detailed questions about the union’s finances and the decisions underpinning the numbers.

Noting that strike pay hasn’t risen since the last time there was job action at BCAA in 1999,  Mayhew told council that a proposal would be forthcoming to the December meeting that would create a sliding scale for strike pay. The scale would depend on overall the health of the defence fund.  

President Black then reported that, due to the internal union elections, the union’s committees have been struck down. If any councillor or steward is interested in participating on a committee, they are asked to contact President David Black at the union office.

The council then discussed the BC Hydro “lifeline” rate policy that MoveUP helped develop and that the BC Public Interest and Advocacy Centre is proposing at the BC Utilities Commission.

Janie McDougal, who works in the FortisBC collections department, stood at the mic and spoke strongly in support of the policy. She said her job brings her into contact with people who would benefit greatly from this policy and suggested the union consider proposing policy that would cover Fortis as well, both on the electricity side and the gas side.  

Coastal Community Credit Union Councillor Nancy Barrett also spoke in favour of the policy by relaying a personal anecdote. One of Barrett’s colleague recently had to let her a neighbour, a single mom with two kids, into her house to cook pot of macaroni because this mother’s electricity had been turned off. The policy was endorsed by council.  

Council next voted on a referral from the executive board to send a donation to the Canadian Diabetes Association in former Vice President Bob Bob Derby’s memory. Council moved to raise donation amount from $1,000 to $5,000.

As business wound down, Toth rose to the floor to recognize long-time and soon-to-be-retiring ICBC councillor John Hooker. Toth made special mention of the fact that Hooker stayed late the previous Friday night to supervise the election ballot count, despite it being his 35th wedding anniversary. After receiving Toth’s thanks, Hooker pledged to council that he would stay in touch with the union as resource.  

President Black informed council that Hooker was not the only retirement of note – Vice President Heather Lee will be retiring after the union’s convention in November. Several well-wishers came to the mic to thank the good sister for her dedicated service to MoveUP’s membership, her warm and welcoming personal touch, her wisdom and her mentorship. Her ability to bring people together was noted by board and council members alike, and she is leaving big shoes to fill for the next vice president of the combined units.

The last order of business was to hold an election for vacancy on the audit committee created by John Hooker’s retirement. Brian Martins from ICBC was the successful candidate.