Recap of MoveUP’s December Executive Council

December 6, 2016

On Monday, December 5, the first fall 2016 snow day in Metro Vancouver, councillors gathered from across the province in Burnaby to discuss the business of the union.

The first report came from Sage Aaron, MoveUP’s Communications Director. She gave councillors an overview of the support communications officer Jen Holmwood offered to BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) convention delegates the week previous, the results of which can be seen on the union’s Facebook page, Twitter and website. Then she presented a summary of results of the customer survey that was running on MoveUP’s website. Recently there has been an upwards spike in dissatisfied visitors who are having trouble finding information. A website redesign was included in the budget for 2017. One of the councillors asked for the detailed results of the survey, which will be presented at the next council meeting in 2017. 

Included in David Black’s president’s report was an update on MoveUP’s members at the BC Nurses and their post-strike return. Executive board member Susan Orr read out a note from BCN bargaining committee member and executive councillor Leisa Smith. Since that day was the first day back at work, Smith opted to be there with her colleagues instead of attending council. Her note thanked the union for their support and described how the BCN employees had a new sense of strength and belonging in each other, after their many months together on the picket line.

A few of the delegates to the BCFED convention talked about their experiences. New executive board member Brian Martens explained how the convention allowed union members from across BC to share their perspectives. Martens made the point of talking at the convention mic about his experience with ICBC’s return to work program.

Kathryn Prinz, MoveUP board member from Fortis, reported out on the inter-union gas conference she attended, which brought together six different unions and about 350 delegates. There she learned about some of the practices gas companies were trying to impose on their employees, including cutting “please” and “thank you” from call centre calls in order to save time, and sewing GPS trackers into people’s uniforms. Delegates also traded recent bargaining wins, in order to try to lift the floor for everyone. 

The COPE SEPB National union report came from MoveUP vice-president Gwenne Farrell, also a vice-president of the National. The newly elected National executive met for the first time in November. Among the business attended to was the National’s appeal process. Previously, if there was a regional decision that a member didn’t agree with they could take their appeal to the National executive board. There was no vetting process, which unfortunately advanced appeals with no hope, wasting both time and money. The National executive board now has the power to determine if there’s merit in going to appeal.

President Black, who also sits as National president, offered an addendum to Farrell’s report. He told council that the COPE SEPB mid-term conference date and location had been set for early 2018 in Victoria. He also reminded council they would soon have to choose MoveUP’s representatives to the Canadian Equity Council. The board will be taking a strategic review of national union, the first since separating from the international and becoming a Canadian union twelve years ago. During that review the committee will seek feedback from regions, which will be presented at the mid-term conference. Recommendations for any changes would then be presented to at the next National Convention. During those four days in November, the National board also worked through the next year’s budget. The cost of one of MoveUP’s international affiliations will move to the National union, relieving the local of the cost.

Farrell also reported out on the IndustriALL Fighting Forward Congress in Rio. The Congress hosted 1,300 delegates from 324 unions in 99 countries. Farrell is deeply involved in advocacy for increased female representation within IndustriALL, and her work continued at the Rio Congress – fighting for a long time. Farrell and other women within the global union’s leadership were pushing for 40 per cent women, up from a mandated 30 per cent. Unfortunately they weren’t able to secure the increase, but will continue to push for more representation. Farrell was re-elected to the IndustriALL executive committee. At the Congress the global union rededicated itself to defending worker’s rights, building union power, confronting global capital, fighting precarious work and promoting sustainable industrial policy.

After Farrell’s report, Black shared a video the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) produced of a powerful and moving dance performance from the Rise Up! human rights conference. Set to the sounds of indigenous DJ group, A Tribe Called Red, and produced with stunning digital effects, a First Nations woman in white dances in front of a screen showing images of the Highway of Tears, a crying Haida mask, and the names and faces of some of the 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. Councillors were deeply moved by the performance.

The tone changed considerably when council next moved to the three month financial review. Secretary-Treasurer Lori Mayhew presented the union’s balance sheets and income statements for August, September and October. She took questions from councillors, and then offered an accounting of her time which included several pension seminars.

After lunch, Diane Wood, the president of the BC Federation of Retired Union Members (BC FORUM) spoke to the council about her organization. Membership in BC FORUM offers additional insurance benefits and an opportunity for continued involvement in the labour movement, post-retirement.  

One of the heaviest items on the December agenda was the 2017 budget. The executive board worked hard throughout the fall and met in two day meetings in both October and November to build, assess, revise and refine next year’s budget. Mayhew walked council through the proposed budget summary, line by line. She spoke to some of the details contained within each line which would fund the union’s operations. She noted where the union had cut costs and explaining new projected expenses. Councillors had further questions, and dug into the costs associated with committees, departments within the union, organizing projects and labour costs. After a robust debate, council passed the 2017 budget as proposed by the board.

Following the budget approval, council acclaimed BCFED member Ingrid Erickson to a vacant space on the union’s audit committee.

BC Hydro councillor April Young rose to talk about her experience attending the Summer Institute for Union Women, and the eye opening exchanges she had with American activists about the Black Lives Matter movement. Armed with the new organizing skills she learned at the Institute, Young told council how she had found the organizing style that worked best for her. She started taking the members in her area out for coffee, one-on-one, to get to know each other better. This approach allowed her to recruit her first steward. Young finished by saying she was grateful for the opportunity and was excited for the people who would attend next year. 

The last bit of business was conducted by the electoral committee. Board member Tim Weigelt submitted his report, which suggested the ratio of members to councillors remain roughly 85-95 to 1. Weigelt then asked councillors to break out into groups to by constituencies to discuss the distribution of councillors across their units.

After a busy day, council then broke to head home before the still-falling snow made travel became too difficult.