Confederation of Canadian Unions Affiliate Report – June 2022
AESES thanks the Confederation of Canadian Unions for inviting us to Laval, Quebec, the traditional unceded territory of the Huron-Wendat people. AESES members live and work on Treaty One Lands, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples and the homeland of the Métis Nation.
AESES has experienced a significant change since the last meeting of the CCU. Laurie Morris has stepped down after eight years of serving as President. Laurie did great things in her four terms, not the least of which was reaching out to the CCU and bringing us in as an affiliate. Interestingly, this was not the first time AESES considered membership in the CCU. Joining the CCU was one option put to a vote by our members as part of a strategy to fend off a raid by CUPE in 1977. We would like to again acknowledge and thank Laurie for her service. While she is beginning the transition to a new lifestyle involving a lot more fun travel for her and Ron, we know she will stay involved with the union movement that she has been instrumental in advancing over the years. AESES has elected to new executive roles Chris McCann as President and Gloria Saindon as Executive Vice President (University of Manitoba – Fort Garry). Continuing in their roles are Melissa Blonjeaux, Vice-President (University of Manitoba – Bannatyne); Meaghan Michaluk, Vice-President (The University of Winnipeg); Will Christie, Treasurer; and Joan Duesterdiek, Contract Administrator (UW). New to our Executive Board are previous CCU delegates, Karen Simpson as Secretary and Rob Parker taking over as Contract Administrator (UM).
AESES is pleased to report that we have been able to agree on a new contract with the University of Manitoba after more than three years. The contract covers seven years and includes general salary increases of 6.5% over the life of the contract. It also consists of expansion to the last four steps of each job classification, with over a third of our members seeing immediate increases of up to 9.5%. All members can receive these increases as they gain seniority. We also negotiated accelerations in vacation accrual for junior members and new language to allow the union to attend investigative meetings to defend members before discipline is applied. Several of these benefits would not have been allowed under the Conservative Government’s Public Services Sustainability Act. Although we were able to make achievements beyond the limitations imposed by the unproclaimed act with time and persistence, we are still seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. It is important that the courts have the chance to rule that governments cannot abridge our Charter Rights to free and fair collective bargaining to prevent future governments’ misuse of the law.
This agreement was accepted by 78% of our membership. Some members against this contract expressed frustration at the offer and were very vocal, correctly feeling disrespected by our Provincial Conservatives and their interference. AESES has targeted several more disruptive members for recruitment to positions within our union. The sh*t disturbers make great unionists.
Negotiations with The University of Winnipeg are still ongoing, but we have made progress with offers and counteroffers being exchanged. We are using the U of M contract as leverage. However, the funding models and realities of the two Universities are very different. We are optimistic we will be able to take an offer to our membership soon.
As reported at the last CCU Executive Board meeting, AESES grieved the cessation of rapid testing at the University of Manitoba for employees unable or unwilling to take a COVID vaccine. We have successfully settled that grievance with the employer with those few members able to return to work and made whole, or nearly so, for time missed from work.
AESES continues to work with both Universities with an anticipated return to full in-person instruction this September. There will be many challenges with managing the return safely and the many members who have become comfortable with the work-life balance afforded by working from home. As we move forward with this next phase of the pandemic, it will be necessary for affiliates of the CCU to share knowledge and experience to organize safe and beneficial outcomes for all our members.
June is Pride Month, and AESES members participated with their universities by walking in the Winnipeg Pride Parade on Sunday, June 6th, where they proudly carried the CCU Pride Flag. Ceremonies were held to raise the Progress Flag at both The Universities of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. The University of Manitoba has committed to the Pride Flag being permanently flown over the campus. The Progress flag incorporates new chevrons symbolizing intersex, trans and marginalized people of colour. The arrow pointing to the right shows forward movement and illustrates that progress towards inclusivity still needs to be made. As symbolized with this flag, much of the “progress” is due to the allyship between the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Two-Spirit (LBTQ2S+) communities and unions. The CCU called for Canada’s Federal and Provincial governments to include sexual orientation as prohibited grounds for discrimination in their Human Rights Acts in a 1987 resolution and has repeatedly advocated against discrimination against sexual orientation. The only protection the LGBTQ2+ community had in the workplace was their union card in many places. With trans people currently being attacked in neighbouring jurisdictions, progress has to continue in all areas. We should also, as unions, look to the successes of the LGBTQ2S+ communities and learn the lessons from their achievements.
AESES expresses our support for the CCU elevating the issue of mental health care at this June Executive Board meeting. Recently, the University of Manitoba’s results from participating in the Canadian Campus Wellbeing Survey have shown an increase in students self-reporting feelings of moderate or severe mental distress, an increase in contemplation or making a plan to seriously attempt suicide and a decrease in knowledge of how to access mental health resources. These findings align with the overall Canadian averages. The CCU and affiliates must strongly advocate for a universal, accessible, and affordable mental health care system for all Canadians.
AESES is excited to announce that 2023 will mark the 50th Anniversary of our initial certification as a bargaining unit. We have started preparing activities to recognize this milestone. If the CCU plans to hold a board meeting in Winnipeg next year, we will look to arrange our planned ‘Manitoba Social’ to coincide with that meeting.
I wish everyone a great and rejuvenating summer. The pandemic challenges are still very present in our lives, and we all deserve a chance to disconnect from work and enjoy time with our families and friends.