Inaugural Executive Council Meeting of 2013

February 18, 2013

The first Executive Council Meeting of 2013 began with the oath of office for three new MoveUP Councillors.

Following the oath, Communications Director Sage Aaron took the Councillors through a quick report which highlighted the union’s recent media hits and social media strategy.

President David Black then gave his report to Council. Black talked about the current state of contract negotiations with the twenty-nine bargaining units who are preparing proposals, actively bargaining, or bringing new contracts to members for ratification. He also relayed the details of recent events and meetings he attended on behalf of the union, including the Blue Green Progressive Energy strategy session in Ottawa.

President Black discussed staffing issues and proposed motions to make MoveUP’s Legal Director a permanent position, and to expand the Legal Department by another lawyer. With the expanded capacity the Legal Department will work with the union’s staff reps to sharpen their arbitration skills. Both motions passed.

Next up was the National Union report, given by Vice-President Jeff Gillies. Gilles spoke about the retirement of long time COPE-SEPB activist and leader Maurice Laplante, and the upcoming National Convention in Winnipeg from June . 

Gillies then moved into the Global Union Federation report. He started by telling Councillors about the Regional Conference of the UNI Americas region in Montevideo, Uruguay, which he attended on behalf of MoveUP from December 5 to 7, 2012. UNI was created in 2000 and is comprised of approximately 900 affiliated unions in 150 countries and represents workers in the commerce, finance, gaming and many other service sectors.

Every four years UNI holds a world congress that, much like MoveUP’s conventions, sets out the general course worldwide for UNI over the next four years, explained Gillies. The last World Congress was held in 2010 and the next one will be held in 2014 in South Africa. UNI is divided up into 4 regions, Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific and Africa. 

The Americas region is made up of affiliates from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. The region has approximately four million members from the service and financial sectors. The President of Uruguay, Jose Muijica, attended the Conference during the opening ceremonies on the first day.

UNI has undertaken a strategy over the last number of years to secure framework agreements with large multinational companies that operate in numerous countries throughout the world. To date, UNI has been able to sign 47 agreements with multinational companies and the list is growing. These framework agreements provide foundational principles for workers throughout the world, where the signatory company commits to respect everything from first collective agreement principles to union recognition to human rights. These framework agreements are a way to ensure that there are at least baseline work conditions throughout a large company that operates in many different countries.

Of particular interest to MoveUP are the financial and insurance sectors. Gillies told the Council he learned the financial services sector in North America is one of the largest unorganized sectors in the world.

“While at the conference I was speaking to Trevor Johnson, General Secretary of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union and 2nd Vice President of the UNI Finance division,” said Gillies. “His union has had recent success organizing Royal Bank workers in the Caribbean. To think that RBC workers are organized in Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean countries but not in Canada seems, well, really odd. UNI believes we need to do something about this problem and the UNI Americas Executive will be working to towards organizing successes in Canada and the US over the next four years.”

Gillies then moved to the value and impact of global solidarity. “In the last 10 years paramilitary death squads in Columbia have murder 2,685 unionized workers and between 2007 and 2010 there were more labour leaders killed in Columbia than the rest of the world combined,” he said. “The most astounding fact is that 97 per cent of the murders of union activists remain unsolved.”

Gillies said a glimmer of hope has emerged in recent years because of UNI’s work. They, and many other international organizations, have been exerting pressure at high levels of government in Columbia and with multinationals who operate there to promote a social dialogue framework. The killings haven’t stopped but they have slowed thanks to these efforts.

There was more good news – UNI strategic efforts in Columbia resulted in organizing wins at a number of companies, which hat Carrefour Columbia, Texomoda, Quadgraphics, Kimberley-Clarke as well as a regional framework agreement with Bancolombia. 

“I just have to say that I was extremely emotional at points during the conference,” continued Gillies. “There were a number of delegates from Columbia, Mexico and other countries that spoke about their devastating experiences at work. Some spoke about their co-workers that had been murdered because of their union involvement and others spoke about sexual harassment and rape in their workplaces. It was an eye-opening experience and a very emotional one for me.” 

Gillies went on to ask Councillors to consider attending the Vancouver Day of Action in support of Mexican workers on February 21 at 11:30 AM at the Harbour Green Park (at the Corner of Cordova and Bute). There will be rallies at Mexican embassies throughout the world in order to meet and deliver a letter demanding the free exercise of freedom of association in Mexico.

Concluding his report, Gillies informed the Council he had been elected as an alternate to the UNI Americas Regional Executive Committee at the Conference. 

As is usual for the first Council meeting of the year, the Secretary-Treasurer’s financial report outlined the annual budget. Budget deliberations had been a large part of the Executive Board retreat – so much so that the Board had spent a day and a half refining line items and cutting expenditures. In the end, the Board was able to present a balanced budget to Council.

Councillors did their due diligence by querying decisions and asking for further information on the budget and all projections. With questions answered the motion to approve the budget passed handily.

The agenda then moved to Officer and Committee reports. Vice-President Heather Lee gave a quick overview of the cases weighed by the Arbitration Review Committee. Board member Calvin Jonas brought Council up-to-date on the new auditors as part of the Audit Committee report. The Social Committee report was given by Board member Melanie Greenlaw – Greenlaw was pleased to inform Council MoveUP’s Sun Run team had nearly 200 members.

Councillor Petro Koromvokis gave the first report from MoveUP’s renewed and revitalized LGBTQI Committee. He told Councillors to be on the lookout for a Facebook page and events coming soon.

As part of the Multicultural Committee report Board member Joyce Galuska reminded everyone it was Lunar New Year and the zodiac sign was the snake. A delegation of about 25 MoveUP members joined the Vancouver Chinatown New Year parade on Sunday, February 17 and enjoyed a dim sum breakfast together afterwards.

Vice-President Jeff Gillies stood again to give the Political Action report. He started by reminding the Councillors how MoveUP members had been personally affected by the BC Liberal government: staffing decisions at the Labour Board have led to some disastrous decisions, BC Hydro was broken up and even now Accenture members were losing their jobs. The public sector had been forced into taking zeros and letting wages fall behind inflation. “The time for a change in government is now,” said Gillies, and went on to outline the union’s plan to get members involved and to mobilize them on Election Day, May 14.   

Switching from the provincial level to federal politics, Gillies gave Councillors a quick overview of the meeting David Black, Lori Mayhew and Heather Lee had with NDP Labour Critic Alexandre Boulerice. They discussed Bill C-377, abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, changes to E.I. and more.

Councillor Susan Orr began the Women’s Committee report by welcoming the new committee chair, Executive Councillor Rysa Kronebusch. Orr went on to describe the committee’s strategic plan which includes further communications and mentoring. Orr reminded Council that March 8, International Women’s Day, is coming up and the union would be participating.

The final report to Council was the Youth Action Committee given by Board member Stephen Von Sychowski. The first committee meeting of the year was to be that night so they are just about to begin planning next year’s activities. The Committee is currently fundraising to send a delegation to the 2013 World Festival of Youth and Students in Ecuador.