56th Annual Convention Highlights

December 20, 2017

UPSE's 56th Annual Convention

The theme of UPSE's 56th Annual Convention was Members Making a Difference!  UPSE dedicated the convention to the memory of Kenneth “Trixie” Dunn.  Trixie was a wonderful union activist who connected with countless members over the years. He will be remembered fondly for his infectious smile, hearty laugh, and bone crushing hugs which put members at ease over the years, when dealing with difficult issues.  UPSE also hosted the first ever Women’s Convention at this year’s convention.  The conference was hosted by the UPSE Women’s Committee and Sally Wells presented on a celebration of all that is good! She talked about choice and how we can choose to wake up every day and acknowledge our gifts and contribution to our workplace and our communities.  The President of PEI UPSE, Karen Jackson, acknowledged the work of the UPSE Women’s Committee and reinforced how important it is for the union to be supporting women’s issues in Prince Edward Island.

In President Jackson’s address to the convention she thanked the membership for their support and said that “it has been a busy year for the union getting difficult issues dealt with and moving our agenda forward to ensure our members are getting the attention they deserve.”  She reported that UPSE will have negotiated or will be negotiating collective agreements for eleven separate bargaining units.  And she welcomed UPSE’s newest members - workers from the City of Charlottetown who were formerly represented by VACE.  Jackson said “UPSE is proud to represent our 45 new members and we look forward to working with them to foster a safe, productive and just workplace culture.”

Jackson addressed the convention delegation on key issues facing the membership. She spoke passionately about the prevalence of workplace violence and encouraged members to fill out incident reports regardless of how frustrated they are currently feeling with the process.  She pointed to the fact that violent encounters with clients is now the second most frequent type of incident behind falls.  

“Workplace violence is a complex issue; however, there is a clear obligation for the employer to provide a safe work environment. I believe we must move from a culture of reacting to violence in the workplace to a culture of violence prevention.”

President Jackson said “the union will be organizing a campaign on the prevention of violence in the workplace. The campaign will make it clear that violence is not acceptable in our workplaces, and is not in any sense “just part of the job.” The campaign will generate significant awareness about this important issue and will be a catalyst for change.”

Jackson also spoke about domestic violence and the role of the union to effect social change beyond the membership. She said “this is an issue that not only affects our membership; it is an issue that can affect all Islanders. In this regard I have written to the Premier and spoke to the Minister of Labour about the importance of this government legislating paid leave for domestic violence.  This legislation would greatly help those that are experiencing violence at home and are attempting to leave the relationship.” She said “this leave is vital to those women and children who are already in a vulnerable place. This will ensure that workers have the support they need to get to a safe place without the fear of losing their job or income.”

Privatization is another key issue the union is facing and President Jackson spoke about the need to ensure that home care in this province remains public. She said she has spoken to government about the issue and urged them to resist pressure from the private sector to deliver home care in this province. “As services become privatized, there is often a loss of transparency and accountability to the public. Home care should remain public so that it can be delivered and managed by dedicated and accountable health care professionals. Further, home care should be brought under the umbrella of the Canada Health Act to ensure that our health care remains accessible and affordable for all Canadians.”

Jackson also touched on government’s recent trend to privatize liquor sales in PEI.  She said “the union will continue with the LCC campaign and will lobby in front of our public liquor stores to educate Islanders about why the sale of liquor should remain public. The union has been encouraging Islanders to shop at provincial liquor stores for the excellent customer service and selection, and knowing that profits are reinvested into public services like health and education.”  

It is important that we support our members working in provincial stores because these jobs are important to our communities and the local economy.


UPSE has also been lobbying government to keep the sale of cannabis public when it is made legal in July of 2018.  Jackson said “the public model in place for the LCC will also work well in regard to the regulation and sale of cannabis.  The public model ensures product safety and social responsibility for all Islanders. It’s the safest and most responsible way to proceed and profits are reinvested into vital public services.”  

Guest speakers at convention included Elisabeth Ballermann (NUPGE, Secretary Treasurer) and Sally Wells (Workplace Consultant).  Ballermann spoke to the delegation about the current challenges facing the house of labour throughout Canada. She talked about the importance of fighting against privatization and cuts to programs and services. She was excited about the recent launch of phase II of the national All Together Now campaign which focuses on building awareness around income inequality. She reported that eight people in the world now possess the same wealth as half of the world’s poorest population. 
Ballermann also spoke about the continuing problem of violence against women, and how men in power are abusing women sexually. She asserted that domestic violence is a workplace issue. The CLC study Can Work Be Safe, When Home Isn’t showed that “women with a history of domestic violence have a more disrupted work history, are consequently on lower personal incomes, have had to change jobs more often, and more often work in casual and part time roles than women without violence experiences.” The delegation subsequently took a pledge together to become individual leaders in speaking out against domestic violence.


(Elisabeth Ballermann, UPSE Secretary Treasuer)

Sally Wells delivered a presentation to the convention delegation on the respectful workplace. She explained that conflict is a normal part of life but how we deal with it talks about whether respect is present or not.  Today there are so many different platforms from which we communicate, e.g., e-mail, social media, texting etc. Being mindful about what we say and how we say it is important. We need to use a filter when we communicate in the workplace in the sense that what we say and how we say it should be acceptable to an average reasonable person.  We need to become more aware about how we affect other people by the way we communicate. 


(Sally Wells, Motivational Speaker)

There was healthy debate around the resolutions introduced at this year’s convention. The first resolution proposed that in order for delegates to attend the annual convention they must attend at least two local meetings in the previous year. Delegates strongly opposed this resolution for a number of reasons.  For one, there has been much talk within the union about increasing member engagement.  If the union makes it harder for members to participate, by instituting more rules, the end result could actually be that less members become engaged. Delegates also mentioned that shift work can get in the way of attending local meetings. Members don’t want to feel penalized because of their hours of work.  The intent of the resolution was to increase participation at local meetings and to inform more members about the current issues.  However, the delegation decided that this was not the best way to go about increasing member engagement.   

The second resolution proposed that the constitution committee should bring the constitutional changes necessary to implement a biennial convention beginning in 2020, to the next annual convention. The delegation rose to speak about the pros and cons of this proposal and after much debate defeated the resolution. Members who supported the resolution pointed out the cost of holding convention annually. By holding a biennial convention the money saved could be put to other uses such as bargaining and campaigns. Those who opposed the resolution said the yearly convention keeps members better connected, updated on the issues, and builds solidarity.


(Wilma Ramsay, Director Local 18)

Another resolution which many members spoke on proposed that the president should be elected at convention by voting delegates every three years as opposed to an open vote to the membership every three years.  Those in favour of bringing the vote to convention said union activists are more informed than the average member, and, therefore, are in a better position to make an informed vote. Members who vote simply on a write-up that comes in the mail don’t really have a solid understanding of the candidates.  Members who opposed the resolution argued that everyone in the union currently has the right to vote, and this right should not be taken away.  The union wants to increase membership engagement not decrease it.  Removing the vote from the membership as a whole is not a move that encourages union involvement. Those opposing the resolution also noted that having roughly 1,500 members vote in the presidential election was better than having approximately 200 delegates vote at convention. This resolution was defeated.

Delegates carried further resolutions with great support on the prevention of intimate partner violence, lobbying government to eliminate HST on electricity, lobbying the employer to return the pension plan to a defined benefit plan, and lobbying Health PEI to provide overnight shelter for adult females who abuse substances.  

Kevin Gotell was voted UPSE’s Member of the Year for 2017 at convention. Kevin thanked the membership and said it was an honour to win the award. He told delegates that he enjoys working as UPSE's Secretary/Treasurer.  President Jackson thanked Kevin for his commitment and dedication to the members of UPSE.


L-R: Karen Jackson (UPSE President) and Kevin Gotell (UPSE Member of the Year)

The executive elections were held for the union's First Vice President and for the Third Vice President. Doug Ferguson (First Vice) offered again and was uncontested.  Jim Ryan (Third Vice) and Bryan Burt offered for the position of Third Vice President and Jim Ryan was successful in returning to the position for his second term.  President Jackson thanked all the candidates for participating in the union’s democratic process.


L-R: David Cooke (Cooke Insurance), Dave Chamberlin (Santa’s Angels) and Karen Jackson (UPSE President).

Your union made several donations at convention to worthy organizations and causes.  UPSE donated $2,500 along with Cooke Insurance for a total of $5,000 to PEI Family Violence and Prevention Services. And $500 each to the following organizations: Southern Kings & Queens Food Bank, The Salvation Army, Prince County Food Bank, Santa's Angels, Souris Food Bank, and the Caring Cupboard – Bloomfield.  

UPSE is proud to be affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress, the PEI Federation of Labour, and the National Union of Public and General Employees. At convention UPSE had the support of fraternals from right across Canada.


Top L-R: Michelle Gawronsky (President, MGEU), Al Mullin (First Vice, NBUPPE), Susie Proulx-Daigle (President, NBUPPE), Bert Blundon (Secretary Treasurer, NAPE), Mike Parker (President, HSAA), Arlene Sedlickas (General Vice President, NAPE), Alex Furlong (Atlantic Region, Director, CLC), Jerry Earle (President, NAPE), Carl Pursey (President, PEI Federation of Labour), Jerry Toews (Executive Liaison, HSAA)

Bottom L-R: Tammy Gillis (3rd Vice President, NSGEU), Karen Jackson (President, UPSE), and Elisabeth Ballermann (Secretary Treasurer, NUPGE).