All Candidates' Forum October 20, 2004 - First Half of Forum

October 20, 2004

Transcribed from tape

First Half
Candidates' Forum
October 20, 2004
National Office
Noon

(Candidates' Forum - Second Half)

Michael Dewing (Moderator) – I would like to thank everyone that’s here today. We decided not to allow any rebuttals however. After that there’s a microphone over there for audience questions. Questions should be 20 minutes [laughter] 20 seconds [laughter] I got confused between the answer and the question [pause] 20 seconds for a question [French] [translation] Questions should be limited to 20 seconds and candidates will have one minute to respond. [English] No supplemental questions are allowed so no back and forth there but if a person wants to go to the back of the line and come back again [pause] that would be allowed. Speakers will be warned when there’s time left to speak. We have these cards here. We don’t have the little lights like in the Presidential debates but we’ve got one minute warning, 15 seconds, 5 seconds and I don’t have a buzzer. It should be noted this forum will be recorded, transcribed, translated and posted to the website. [ French ] [translation] There will be a summary of the forum posted on the website of the Association. I would like to call on José Aggrey to come and make the first statement.

J. Aggrey - Thank you Mike and good afternoon - I would like to thank all of you for joining us this afternoon for the all candidate’s debate. My friends, this election is all about CAPE. Moving beyond the merger [pause] building upon this relatively young organization’s remarkable accomplishments into an organization that is continually dedicated to championing its member’s collective rights and providing them with the best service. In fact service that is second to none. And with over ten years of experience, as a very active member of this organization and its predecessors for all of these years as an active Vice-President, I am ready [pause] to lead CAPE [pause] into a stronger organization with a brighter future. As President, I will do these things by responding to the needs of our members and let me tell what the needs of are members are [pause] the five top priorities of our members are one [pause] wage increase, our members are concerned about getting fair and equitable wage increase not playing catch up at negotiations and as a person with some negotiations experience I will work with our collective bargaining committee and draw upon the expertise of our staff to produce the results that our members need. You know what else our members are concerned about [pause] they are concerned about service. I will improve services provided by the National Office to members as well as services provided by the Local leadership and stewards to the members [pause] how [pause] I will do so for example by ensuring that each member knows who to contact when they are in need. I will put the name, telephone numbers with the extension, e-mail addresses of our Labour Relations Officer on the membership card for easy reference. I will organize regular activities to assist member’s career advancements for example by establishing and promoting mentorship programs for members who need mentors. What’s the third priority on our members list [pause] effective communication [pause] improving services will be complimented by improving the quality and frequency of communications from the national office to members, local leadership and stewards, and you know, visa-a-versa, I will provide our members opportunities to communicate with the President, National Office, Local Leadership and stewards. I will introduce info bulletins to address issues of employer/ employee relations for example, how to negotiate overtime with your supervisor and establish healthy work life balance. The fourth issue [pause] our members are concerned about is inclusive decision making. I will strengthen our decision making process for example by establishing regional councils and younger members advisory committee to provide you some points of views too ensure their interest and concerns form part of CAPE’s new direction and way of doing business. Under my watch, decision making will be open, transparent and democratic. Now the fifth issue [pause] the fifth issue that our members are concerned about and that is probably the most important because it will drive all the above agenda is the effective efficient management of our finances that’s fiscal probity. As president my first priority is to improve our financial management by reviewing all of our financial commitments and eliminating where possible inefficiencies and operations while providing the best service to our members. Finally, let me assure you that this organization is strong, is effective, efficient and supported and appreciated by most members because of what it has been able to achieve over the years. Most members I talked to are proud to be members of CAPE having had [pause] having said that friends it does not mean that we shouldn’t be complacent, nor we can be stronger, more effective in serving our members, we can be more efficient in using membership resources, we can be more democratic and more inclusive in our decision making. Therefore, I invite all members who are willing to contribute their ideas to build a better and stronger future for CAPE to vote for me and join me in moving CAPE beyond the measure. Thank you.

M. Dewing (Moderator) - Thank you very much José. I call now on Carl Lakaski the other Presidential Candidate here today.

C. Lakaski – If I had to tell you the most important message of my campaign it goes something like this. Only by establishing a more democratic union can we make a good union even better. We need a union with popular participation, genuine competition for executive offices and a system of checks and balances. We don’t have that now. We need to reduce the power of the Presidency. We need to re-distribute that power the responsibility and authority to the Vice-President, the Executive Committee and most importantly to the union locals. Democracy is not separate from our struggles. Not a frill nor a luxury but it’s an essential factor in the equation that will increase our capacity to defend and expand the interest of our members. Only through increasing democracy in the union can we draw on full capacities of the membership to meet the challenges of the future. The challenges for which an [inaudible] bureaucratic way just won’t work any more. Challenges such as membership apathy, Public Service Modernization Act, enforcement of the collective agreement, Martin’s Program Review, the looming deficit in CAPE and it’s because of that I support Derek Brackley for Vice-President. The erosion of our medical, dental and disability benefits, the need to defend the pension plan [pause] do not be fooled privatization is on the agenda. We need to respond to the unique interests, the unique needs of the ES, SI, the TR’s and of course Library of Parliament members but there’s an iceberg issue and we have to deal with that too and there’s the bi-motto age distribution of our membership. Given the short time I have I’ll talk only about two issues. One of them is membership apathy. Apathy is so important because it strikes at the very heart of our ability to respond to each and every one of the challenges I mentioned above. How do we convert apathy to participation? We can do that by looking at how CAPE can encourage broader based discussions. We must promote the idea and the reality of that that allows people to speak their minds even if it disagrees with the leadership of the union. Also the expression of these views must be tolerated; as well [pause] we will allow people to organize to promote those views. This will lead to a richer union culture one that favours the development of analytical skills, leadership skills and social skills. Yes there will be mistakes but people will learn from them. Yes there will be some discomfort but that will pass. And for that we will be a stronger union. It’s no secret that management will attempt through the Public Service Modernization Act to redefine the workplace in ways that will have features that will not be in the best interest of our members and they will attempt to do this through co-development processes and participatory schemes. Don’t be fooled or lulled into complacency by management’s description of these strategies as win-win. What they don’t tell you is - we all don’t win equally some win more than others and some win badly. The key to thinking through our response to the act lies within the democratic prospect. We will not be able to defend our member’s interests by hunkering down in the national office. Locals will not be able to defend the interest of their members without sufficient human resources, to read and study the documents they're sent, to attend the meetings and to caucus to make the best decisions. That is why locals need more power, so that local members can see that there is value to participating in the union. They can change the conditions that govern their work this will be a spur to participation. Of course there are some issues at the national office needs to pursue also and particularly the President. We must have receive sufficient time to do the work. We must not be penalized with excessive overtime to make up for the time we missed while we’re engaging in these activities and processes must be in place for settling differences between the unions and management in these joint activities. But it is again, only with the help of broad-based participation in locals that these things can be enforced once we arrive at the solutions. In a democratic union ignorance is not strength. It is in a bureaucratic union but not in a democratic union. The membership is constantly submerged in management’s view of understanding the workplace. It is our responsibility that they will understand the trips, the traps, the very real dangers to the merit principals, quality of life and union solidarity that is posed by the act. Thank you.

M. Dewing (Moderator) – Thank you very much turning now to the Vice-Presidential candidates and again by alphabetical order I call upon Mr. Derek Brackley to come and make his 5 minute statement.

D. Brackley – Hello my name is Derek Brackley. I’m here to invite you to elect me so that we can take CAPE into the future together. I’m asking for your support so that we can build CAPE as an Association we can all be proud of. Excellent services, improved communications, increased accountability all supported through member participation in a more democratic Association. As EC/LoP Vice-President and it’s that position I’m here for I will work with the new executive to build on what is already a good Association by implementing a number of improvements. First of all we need to modernize communications. CAPE is behind in making use of internet technology. We need to develop more interactive communications starting with a better website [pause] to make information more available on a more timely basis. Then we need to explore some options like e-mail communications, list servers and perhaps online voting. The technology exists for us to have better communication [pause] we need to embrace that technology for improved accountability as well as more member participation in association processes. We need to meet challenges that are ahead of us and provide outstanding service to members. CAPE staff currently provide excellent services and are recognized as leaders in doing so [pause] and we need to ensure that we can maintain these services as we come up against new challenges, for example the Public Service Modernization Act when fully implemented and scheduled for the end of 2005 will see that competitions no longer exist as they do now. Managers will have the capacity to appoint anyone who’s even minimally qualified to do the job not the best qualified person as is currently required. And appeals will only be permitted on the basis of two grounds, abuse of authority or because a candidate was denied the opportunity to compete in the language choice. This means that managers will have unprecedented power in the workplace. Increasingly we are involved in consultation [pause] Carl referred to this[pause] consultation, co-development whatever the name it is not a situation that we can enter into blindly we need to have strong leadership for that and that why I have endorsed Carl as the candidate of preference for President of this Association. In addition our members are increasingly asserting their rights under the collective agreements and therefore the workload for our staff has increased. We need to ensure rights of our members are protected in every possible way and that our interests are advanced as much as possible. Our staff is a key ingredient we need to support them through good management and adequate staffing levels. Member representation is an area were we have excelled in the past and we need to retain and further develop this key service. In our workplaces we need to have active involvement of local officials on union management committees of all levels and we need to have an active bargaining committee to be able to improve our workplaces, wages are obviously number one concern there are others. I have a lot of experience on union management consultation committees and I have bargaining team experience and I’ll certainly work with the executive and staff to develop and implement strong positions, strong policies to support our members and allow them to pursue their careers in balance with the rest of their lives. [pause] And we need to improve accountability, for example, did you understand the last budget that you saw from CAPE. It took some of us that were willing to look in detail awhile to figure out what the story was. We need to get some standard reporting formats and some intelligent budget commentary. I will bring those about as soon as I can and it is traditional for one of the Vice-Presidents to be Chair of the Finance Committee. For example, in the current budget the Finance Committee and the National Executive have seen fit to have the Association running a deficit of approximately over one million dollars, sorry, approximately one point two million dollars. So they were spending a dollar forty two in the current budget for every dollar in revenue. It’s not a position that we can sustain for very long. Despite member concerns raised at the last AGM in June I believe or May there has been nothing done about it by the Finance Committee. Now there are two members of the Finance Committee here, José Aggrey and Mike Monaghan and one of the members of the audience may want to ask them what their position is on this. Accountability to the membership has to been increased and this can be done by making records of the meetings freely available and I being told my time is up so I want to also say that we need to increase member participation in all activities I think that is very important[pause] Carl has spoken to that issue [pause] and in conclusion I would ask you to support me Derek Brackley for the EC/LoP Vice-President position to maintain our excellent services and to improving [pause] improve communication, increase accountability and to support all this through increased member participation in the Association. Thank you.

M. Dewing (Moderator) - Thank you very much [pause] I’d like to call on our second Vice-Presidential candidate Michael Monaghan to come up.

M. Monaghan - Thank you [pause] Hello my name is Mike Monaghan. I’m running for the position of Vice-President. I work at Statistics Canada; actually, I worked at Statistics Canada for 27 years and I joined the local at that time SSEA 7 years ago. I became the Treasurer and that’s a position I still hold and through my tenure I’ve worked with four Local Presidents and I’ve helped them to put forward the Association’s goals at Statistics Canada. I’ve also been a shop steward for the same 7 years and I’ve had a chance to help individual members with their problems such as the time I was able to help a member get payment for his medical bills that the Public Service Health Plan had initially refused payment for and I’m committed to helping individual members as well as maintaining the goals of the Association. Back at Statistics Canada back in June of 2003 over half of the Local Executive resigned. I stayed on to maintain my commitment to the members at Statistics Canada and I set up an interim Executive I was able to recruit of couple of people who were former executive members or members of national committees and we ran the Association until we had an election in November of 2003. At that election, Clayton Therrien was elected our Local President and [pause] we were able to get a full slate of the Executive for the first time in my tenure at Statistics Canada. Mainly through the efforts of Clayton and myself. In 2001 I joined the Finance Committee at the National Office because I had a lot of accounting experience and it allowed me to contribute to the budgeting of the National Office. Recently I also joined the CAPE Constitution and By-Laws Committee where we have moved to make the Constitution and By-Laws more democratic. Both these Committees have been enhanced by the contribution of members of the TR group and the Library of Parliament as well as the EC membership. [pause] As Vice-President, I will be committed to helping the members of CAPE as a group and as individuals. Also, I will work as a team with the National Executive using my experience as a manager and my accounting skills to help us manage and execute the programs of the Association. I’ve worked effectively with the current President and Vice-President. I will be committed to support the new President in achieving the goals of the Association and its membership. My platform is pretty simple [pause] my platform is to work for the goals of the silent majority of the Association. To negotiate in good faith with Treasury Board to achieve progressive contracts without striking. To ensure that the National Office is capable of meeting the needs of individual members by employing a sufficient or by continuing to employ sufficient skilled staff [pause] and thirdly to keep improving the Association in a cost effective manner. Which means, as Derek mentioned we’re going to have to do something to get our budget in shape. We’ve been caught by a lot of extra expenses because of the merger [pause] and some people think some of these expenses were too much like the expense for this building. I actually thought it was too much too so I went on a website for real estate in downtown Ottawa and found out we couldn’t get anything better for the money. So I think the current management did a good job in negotiating the lease here and that is one of our biggest expenses but it’s a [pause] we have a long term lease and [pause] room to grow and that is what I hope the Association will do within the next ten years and I’ll work my best to help the Association grow and continue to meet the needs of all the members. Thank you.

M. Dewing (Moderator) – Thank you very much. Let’s move on to the questions as I said we’d try to keep the questions short [pause] no lengthy preambles please [pause] 20 second questions[pause] and then one minute responses [pause] please and the responses I guess would go in the same order by alphabetical order[pause] go ahead please.

Janet Mrenica - PWGSC- I’m Janet Mrenica, shop steward at PWGSC, National Executive member and acclaimed for I don’t know the next year or two years. The CAPE President, I understand that this is a salary position at the EX -2 level. Therefore, CAPE’s strategic leader not just for the members but also for our professional staff. So my question is both to José and Carl, in alphabetical order. Which is the top issue facing the CAPE members at this time and what is the strategy that you propose to respond to this issue?

J. Aggrey – Obviously [is it on] the top issue for our membership right now is wage settlement. It’s collective bargaining with Treasury Board [pause] there’s no issue more important for our membership than that. If we’re able to settle [pause] fair and equitable settlement wage increases for our members I think they’ll be more than happy and have a happy Christmas. That’s what the most important issue is facing our membership.

C. Lakaski – Well for me you have to make a distinction between the membership, the individual members and the organization itself. Certainly, members, individual members are interested in those kinds of bread and butter issues but if the organization is not healthy, if the organization cannot respond to membership needs, if it doesn’t have a broad based support so that it can push, push its negotiations so that they’d have credibility, with the people it negotiates with the government, with its employers then we’re in trouble. So, I go back to my platform which is I want to see the re-distribution of power. So that we can attract more membership, more membership at the Locals, more active membership at the Locals. For the Executive council and the Vice-President to have more power so there’d be a series [pause] so there’d be a system of checks and balances. So no one would be able to basically rule the roost in sort of an autocratic manner as often happened over the last ten years. So I’d think I would make a distinction there. There’s the membership interest which we of course have to attend to but if the organization itself is not healthy, is not functioning well, doesn’t have the wide based participation and support of the membership then we're in trouble.

Trong Nguyen (HC) - The first three speakers all spoke about when they become whatever position they’re running for we’ll end up with a more democratic transparent and open Association. The implication in that is that we currently don’t have an open, transparent and democratic organization and so I’d like the first three speakers to speak to what they think is not open, democratic or transparent currently.

J. Aggrey - For me [pause] this organization is evolving, we started off with about 2, 400 people, merged with SI’s, became almost 6, 000 and over, we are now about 10,000. Every organization evolves and we are evolving and as we evolve we greater numbers of people the demands become greater. I see this organization as effective strong and democratic. Obviously, we can do better, better by perhaps increasing the number of our members that participate in every activity of the Association. And that is why for me, I’ll establish regional councils to get their input from around the country [cough] provide a forum for all to be able to participate in activities and make discussions and decisions that affect all our membership, for example, in terms of growth, this organization has never taken a strategic decision to identify the reasons for growth, expanding our membership and that’s the kind of thing I would do and I think with that type of decisions making it requires, democracy, transparency and effective membership participation.

C. Lakaski – Well [cough] I have to disagree with José. I don’t think we have a democratic organization [pause] far from it. I think if you look at the level of popular participation it’s a dismally low. I mean for a crucial issue of the merger less than 10% of our membership voted. I don’t think we have genuine competition for executive offices. I mean look at the current slate for the executive committee all acclaimed. If we cannot interest the members enough to run for those offices how can we say that we have a democratic system. The other thing is we don’t have a system of checks and balances all the power is ensconced in the President. He even has the sole power to define what is right and wrong under the laws of the constitution so if you have a disagreement with the President where do you go. He makes the decision, not no-one else [pause] that’s absurd. I would make sure that would be eliminated. I would make sure that the power to define the constitution would be a shared responsibility not just that of the President. And this, this event here [pause] sorry my times up.

D. Brackley - I’d echo what Carl said and maybe just to continue this meeting here is an example of failure for an open and democratic process in order for you to come here you either heard about it from somebody or you took the initiative to go to the web site within the last ten days or so. If we had a real open and democratic process we would have a mailing or some other way of reaching the members and doing that. The first draft of the By-Laws had all kinds of power ensconced in the executive so that essentially they could wield arbitrary power in the same way that our employer wields arbitrary power in disciplining members and some of us spoke up against that particular clause and if it hasn’t been changed yet it will be soon with a new executive and that’s all I have time for right now. I just also want to say that I have extensive association experience and please read my handout. Thank you.

M. Monaghan - I think this is one of the more democratic unions just because basically we get to vote for some things that other unions don’t like when we have a strike vote we don’t count all the no shows as a yes vote or we have to put forth a vote for the dues increases is put forth to the membership as a whole. Now I understand that there are other concerns in some areas where things could be more democratic and I would work with the President to achieve these goals of making the Association more democratic. I am committed to work with the new President to achieve these goals. Thank you.

(Candidates' Forum - Second Half)