CUPTE and SSEA announce plans to explore combining their memberships

April 30, 2002

Dear colleagues:

Over the past decade your union, the Social Science Employees Association, has experienced significant growth and change. Formerly known as the Economists', Sociologists' and Statisticians' Association, we expanded to a new jurisdiction in the early nineties when the 60 members of the RO-RA group at the Library of Parliament joined the 2,200 members of the ES community of the federal public service. Then, in 1994 we doubled our membership when the SI group joined us to form a new organization. Thereafter for 8 straight years, as a result of an increased need in the public service for the skills and knowledge typical of our membership, SSEA has experienced continuous growth, reaching a peak of over 7,700 members today.

Throughout this period, your Association has maintained a high level of professional services. Despite increasing demands from our membership, we have had a stable dues structure of $23.00 a month - the lowest in the federal public service.

However, during these years of growth SSEA has not been free from threatening pressures and events. These have necessitated strategic responses to ensure the relevancy and effectiveness of your union.

We have all noted over time the changing face of the federal government and, in particular, the emergence of Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) models. As a result of ASDs we have lost hundreds of members from such organizations as the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, NAV Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Tourism Canada, and Parks Canada. The loss of membership and the potential for further losses in the anticipated new labour relations world that could grow out of the confluence of UCS and the work of the Task Force on Modernizing Human Resources Management are strategic challenges to which your National Executive Committee have been preparing responses.

Part of this strategic response was reported in the Association's most recent Annual Report. In the interest of all current members, we have moved to establish a closer working relationship with organizations representing public service employees with similar interests. We have sought to strengthen the Association's position through strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations, with professional memberships like our own.

Historically, we have had a close working relationship with the Canadian Union of Professional and Technical Employees (CUPTE). In 1997, CUPTE and SSEA undertook a federal court challenge against the government for amortizing part of your pension surplus. We were the only unions to take action at that time. Similarly, we challenged the government in court when it refused to credit interest to the pension account. Both organizations are active participants in recent pension cases and we carefully coordinate our efforts. In addition, and more recently, we have filed similar complaints against Treasury Board, for discrimination in the calculation of retroactive pay, based upon TB=s application of the Lajoie decision of the federal court and have decided to argue them jointly before the Public Service Staff Relations Board. In other matters of the National Joint Council, CUPTE and SSEA find common ground through a respectful and collaborative dialogue. In addition, CUPTE itself has undergone a period of significant growth - having seen an increase in membership of 25% over the past several years. They currently represent approximately 1,100 professional federal government translators, interpreters and terminologists.

Given this cooperative relationship and the strategic issues that confront us, your National Executive Committee felt it would be appropriate if SSEA sought a merger with CUPTE. Not surprisingly, faced with their own strategic concerns, officials at CUPTE came to a similar conclusion and invited me, as your president, to discuss the possibility of a merger between the two organizations. Recently, the TR Group President and CUPTE Executive Council Member Luc Pomerleau met with the SSEA National Executive Committee and confirmed our mutual interest in forming a new public service union dedicated to serving our combined professional memberships.

Towards this potential merger, the two organizations have mapped out some founding principles with which to commence an exploratory dialogue:

* to provide an enhanced profile and increased visibility for a union of knowledge workers;

* to respect the autonomy of individual groups with regards to collective bargaining;

* to maintain a high level of services to which members of both organizations are accustomed, in a financially efficient manner;

* to respect democratic principles;

* to provide a truly bilingual union, both in services provided to members and in its major bodies;

* to speak with one voice while recognizing the specific character of each individual group.

The impact of this merger would mean the formation of a new federal government union representing the needs of professional knowledge based workers. We believe that this would constitute a union of choice for like-minded professionals working in the public service.

Your National Executive called for a local leadership meeting last night (April 29th) to announce these developments and to seek both support and guidance from your officials across the country. We understand that CUPTE took similar organizational action with an announcement on the same day.

While we believe that such a merger is mutually beneficial, a great deal of work and transition planning would be absolutely essential for its success. Towards this end we are committed to the development of a full and complete plan of action. A joint working committee will be formed to make recommendations to the Executive Committees of both your Association and CUPTE. The final decision in this matter will be based upon a democratic referendum in both organizations. This project can only proceed if a majority in each organization agrees.

In the meantime, and until you have rendered your democratic decision, we intend to provide you with a constant flow of information on our progress, while continuing to provide the services and support that have made us a union of choice.

Bill Krause