Last year, I started my New Year’s message by pointing out some of the things we had learned, not the least of which was the fact that “the current government will stop at nothing [...], however ridiculous their arguments might be.” As it turns out, the year’s events revealed how accurate we were in that assertion. The government stepped up its attacks against the public service and the labour movement, despite appeals for calm from a number of experts and from some of the more moderate segments of society. Numerous analysts, including former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, and specialists with the Broadbent Institute, recognize how important it is for Canadian society to have a healthy public service and strong unions.
We will therefore have to be patient, because the next federal election might not be until October 2015.
In the meantime, CAPE will be starting 2014 with a number of initiatives to inform as many members as possible of the anticipated impact of the new budget implementation legislation passed by the Conservatives in December 2013. A series of teleconferences on Bill C-4 will be held at the start of the year, as well as a general meeting open to CAPE members and the members of other unions.
But the dissemination of information is just the first step toward a greater degree of mobilization. Our rights as workers are being threatened, from our compensation and benefits to our right of association. We will have to show this intractable employer that we should not have to pick up the tab for the government’s bad financial management and its inability to worm its way out of the morass of scandals that have become the hallmark of its time in office.
In response to these attacks against fundamental rights such as the right of association and the right to freely negotiate terms and conditions of employment, public service union leaders have decided to share information and adopt a common strategy. We are currently assessing how we could jointly address a number of bargaining issues in 2014 so as to demonstrate our desire to preserve and improve your conditions of employment. These inter-union discussions have trickled down to the Local level as well, with members of several unions organizing joint information sessions on C-4. At a meeting of CAPE’s Local Leaders in December, some CAPE members indicated that it might be advisable to examine the possibility of having CAPE join the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ). This is certainly an avenue that must be explored as a means of being better equipped to defend your interests.
The year 2014 will see the start of a new round of bargaining. But the rules of the game have changed considerably, and the playing field is now decidedly tipped in the employer’s favour. The Treasury Board President has been clear in his pronouncements on the subject, and is openly seeking to level down the public service. We can only hope, however, that the government will do some soul searching and opt for the good faith approach that should always guide negotiations between parties that are honest.
I will close on that note, and extend my best wishes to you and yours for health and happiness in the New Year. After all, these are the things that truly matter in life.