57th Annual Convention Highlights

December 13, 2018


UPSE's 57th Annual Convention

UPSE's 57th Annual Convention was a great success. President Karen Jackson delivered her yearly report to delegates, resolutions were introduced and debated, the auditor’s report was presented, guest speakers brought important information to the membership, and UPSE held its second annual Women’s Convention which was hosted by the UPSE Women’s Committee.  At the Women’s Convention Roxanne Carter Thompson and Raeanne Sherren spoke to delegates on behalf of The Adventure Group about their services such as the life and work management program which is geared toward young Moms on social assistance.  They also conducted a team building exercise with delegates.  Gloria Dennis from PEI Family Violence Prevention Services presented a series of videos on how to recognize and intervene in cases of family violence. The videos show different scenarios involving types of violence bystanders might see at work or in public, e.g., sexual assault, abuse of older adults, child abuse, online harassment, or verbal abuse.  UPSE was a proud gold sponsor of the videos which were released by the City of Charlottetown and PEI Family Violence Prevention Services.  President 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.


At UPSE’s 57th Annual Convention, President Jackson reported to the delegation on activities that have taken place over the year. She reported that the UPSE Executive met on a regular basis since last convention and UPSE remains focused on eliminating violence in the workplace, fighting against the privatization of public services, establishing fair and equitable contracts and engaging members through education and open communication.  She thanked UPSE’s Board of Directors, Stewards, committees, staff and delegates.  She then spoke about UPSE’s success and continued work on the campaign front. “We continue to work with the national union on phase 2 of the All Together Now campaign which builds upon the success of phase 1 and the Fairness Express, which used our members to engage in one-on-one conversations with Canadians about how income inequality was affecting them.” Phase 2 of the campaign highlights the important role unions play in creating a fairer country and that unions still matter to all Canadians, even to those people who aren’t part of one.  She said the campaign includes a national commercial, a new website with fact sheets and videos, an educational component, a dedicated social media presence and t-shirts, tuques, decals and tattoos. Jackson also talked about the development of a project to engage millennials and establish what unions mean to them.  She said “we have been concerned about how the generational shift is taking place where our members work, as well as how the broader labour movement is responding.  We wanted to find ways to move the union forward in its communications with younger workers.” 

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President Jackson spoke about the importance of UPSE belonging to the P.E.I. Federation of Labour.  She explained that “the federation is a coalition with other Unions across the province, where we discuss labour related issues that challenge our members.  We also meet with the Minister of Labour, as a group, to ensure he is aware of the issues.  Meeting together gives Labour a stronger voice with the many diverse issues we deal with.  Lobbying is also an important aspect of the Federation, we have been vocal on the EI zoning and establishing a National Pharmacare program, as well as many other issues.”   

UPSE has been fighting against encroaching privatization in Prince Edward Island.  UPSE partnered with the PEI Nurses Union to deliver a campaign in response to the provincial government’s recent decision to contract out to Medavie, a private company, to deliver some of the home care services in Prince Edward Island.  Jackson said, “we acknowledge and respect that paramedics receive appropriate training for their essential role as emergency medical technicians, however, our concern is that they do not have the required experience or training to provide the same level of care offered by current home care employees.”  The campaign consisted of both television and print ads.  The TV ads featured our members in their role as home care professionals providing care in a variety of home care scenarios.  The ads build awareness about the important work our members perform in home care and reinforce the message that home care is a valued public service that should be kept public!

UPSE questioned government for investing tax dollars in a private company to provide public health care services that could be delivered using existing public sector employees. Many of our members providing home care services have skills and abilities that are not being fully utilized. So why not use these public health care workers for new initiatives and take advantage of their complete scope of practice? UPSE also argued that the trend toward privatizing health care services is not in the public’s interest because with privatization comes the loss of transparency and accountability of the service provided.  Therefore, any expansion of our health care system, or any new initiatives or programs, should be delivered through the public health care system. 

In regard to other privatization issues UPSE lobbied government to ensure that the sale of cannabis is administered by the public sector.  The decision regarding whether the sale of cannabis is private, or public is at the discretion of the provinces, and most recently Ontario changed its original plan and is now authorizing the private sector to oversee sales.  UPSE understood the value of promoting the public model in Prince Edward Island and we focused on the importance of product safety and social responsibility.  We are pleased that the government chose to use the public model and is committed to a long-term financial investment in harm reduction, education and awareness. Jackson said she was pleased to meet the new members and welcome them to UPSE at the cannabis staff retail training sessions in September.  This gave her  the opportunity to acquaint members with the programs and services available to them through UPSE, and to explain how their union protects their rights under their collective agreement and negotiates fair and equitable contracts on their behalf.

President Jackson addressed convention delegates about the pervasive problem of violence in the  workplace.  She said “there must be a shift from a culture reacting to violence in the workplace, to a culture of violence prevention.”  Prevention protects workers, improves patient/client care and makes the care environment a more positive place for everyone.  Policies that directly affect the delivery of services for UPSE’s front-line workers need to be evaluated and necessary measures need to be put in place to ensure the safety of the members.  Front line workers need to be heard and feel supported by their employer, with the many challenges facing them.  Decision makers need to be informed and aware of the issues in the front lines and be quicker to respond when these issues arise.  It is very frustrating for UPSE Labour Relations Officers and especially UPSE members, when they are continuously bringing the same issues forward, being told that it is being addressed, only to find out that the issues have indeed not been addressed and the only recourse is to file a grievance which is a lengthy procedure. 

Jackson asserted that “violence in our worksites is at its highest level ever, and the need for more staff and resources is of vital importance, in our Long-term care facilities, hospitals, mental health facilities, correctional facilities, and our group homes.  It is also prevalent in many of our office settings throughout government.”  She said “UPSE is committed to bringing an awareness campaign to educate the public on the realities facing our frontline workers.  We have been gathering data on this issue from our members and we continue to urge them to inform our office when they encounter violence of any kind in their worksites.”

President Jackson also spoke to the delegation about staffing issues especially in Health PEI.  She said “many of our members are being forced to work double shifts, because of the lack of staff to call in for replacement.  If they refuse, they are threatened with disciplinary measures.  We have been meeting with the employer and we have filed a court injunction to have this practice stopped.”  UPSE realizes that members are expected to stay when there are storms or there may be an influenza outbreak for example.  In the past, UPSE members have demonstrated their dedication and commitment in these situations, but when the employer is forcing members to staff shifts because of inadequate staffing, that is where UPSE draws the line.  The employer needs to staff appropriately, that is the employer’s responsibility.

President Jackson talked to the delegates about UPSE’s efforts on the education front. She spoke about the latest course added to the curriculum called Harmony and Understanding in the Multi-Generational Workplace. She said, “the aim of the course is to enhance awareness about different generations at work and to build harmony and understanding so that everyone benefits.”  Last year UPSE introduced a new course called Mental Health in the Workplace and, also delivered Violence and the Workplace, Stress in the Workplace, Attendance Management, Steward Training (Levels 1 & 2), and our keystone course Welcome to UPSE - including a tailored version of Welcome to UPSE for Holland College.  UPSE also continued to work with government in delivering the bully-free workplace initiative in both Health and the Civil Service. The more UPSE educates the membership the more our work together will benefit workplaces across Prince Edward Island.

President Jackson updated the membership on collective bargaining and membership engagement.  She thanked the members on the negotiating teams and UPSE’s Labour Relations Officers for their efforts and adherence to the principles of fair collective bargaining. In regard to membership engagement she said “the members of a union are what makes a union strong. We work each, and every day to keep the membership well informed.  We talk with our members, offer them support, and address their concerns in the workplace.  Membership engagement is very important to our continued success especially our younger members.  We reach out to you through our website which is updated on daily basis; we distribute our newsletters (The Accent) to the workplace, and our quarterly publication (The Advocate) to your homes; we also send out news bulletins via our mass e-mail database.”  She said “UPSE has most recently developed a pamphlet that outlines our programs and services for members and we can send copies to your workplace upon request.  We will be looking at improving our communications with our members and this will include use of social media.”        

President Jackson also spoke to the delegation about the importance of championing social issues.  She explained that “we sometimes need to give a voice to those that feel they have no voice.  We have been supporting the need for paid domestic violence leave for the past 3 years and I am proud that we were one of the driving forces for Bill 116 which amends the Employment Standards Act to include three paid and seven unpaid days leave for Islanders who are experiencing domestic violence, intimate partner violence, or sexual violence in their personal relationships.  We lobbied for 5 paid days, but 3 certainly is a step in the right direction, and we can continue to lobby to be in line with other provinces that have brought forth this legislation.” 

Jackson added that “UPSE has also partnered with Cooke Insurance by supporting the prevention of family violence in PEI.  As a gold sponsor, we supported a series of training videos planned by the Purple Ribbon Task Force on Family Violence Prevention.  The videos are being used widely in PEI and Canada and are designed for workplace training, to educate the public and cover different kinds of violence you might witness as a bystander. These videos are a major contribution to workplace training and to public understanding of what we can all do to make preventing violence all our business.  I am proud we sponsored these powerful videos bringing public awareness to this serious issue. UPSE has also made submissions for the minimum wage review, whistle blower legislation and changes to the OHS act to include the definition of Workplace Harassment for the WCB. It is imperative that employees across this province have recourse if they are experiencing workplace bullying at their worksite, and that employers have policies in place to address this.”

President Jackson concluded her report to the delegation by thanking the membership for their support in her re-election as President. She said “I want you to know that I always have, and always will, put the membership first.  I am here on your behalf and am committed to working with our executive, board of directors and you, the members, in moving this great union forward for the benefit of the membership and all working Islanders.”

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(Larry Brown, President NUPGE)

Guest speakers at this year’s convention included Larry Brown, the President of the National Union of Public and General Employees, and Krista Williams, the Manager of Client Services for Managed Health Care Services Inc. (MHSCI). Larry Brown spoke to convention about the rise of right-wing movements in the world.  He said Donald Trump validates the worst in people and denigrates the media. He also mentioned Brazil’s new President, Jair Bolsonaro, who is known as a far-right, pro-gun, populist.  He touched on Ontario’s new Premier, Doug Ford, who decided to drastically reduce the size of Toronto’s city council as one of his first moves in office – and declared he would use the notwithstanding clause to achieve his ends. Brown also stated that unions will come under attack from the Coalition Avenir Québec government recently elected and that we should be weary of New Brunswick’s new provincial government whose  premier is a fiscal hawk.  Larry had met in Geneva prior to convention with Public Services International, a trade union federation representing 20 million working women and men who deliver vital public services in 163 countries. They discussed the recent growth of right-wing movements and the moves many of these governments are taking to limit democracy.  Brown said we should not be surprised by how many people under 35 have little trust in the importance of the democratic system because our system is largely problematic.  We need to think about why people are losing faith in democracy. He said we have an opportunity in PEI to improve democracy by choosing proportional representation. By improving democracy we make it more likely that people will participate. People become more engaged when they know their voice can make a difference.

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 (Krista Williams, Manager of Client Services for MHCSI)

Krista Williams addressed the delegates and all UPSE members on the savings they can achieve through the MHCSI Preferred Supplementary Pharmacy Benefits Program.  Krista explained that with the MHCSI drug program, members and their eligible dependents are entitled to coverage of up to $3.00 per prescription.  She also explained that members can enjoy great discounts on front store purchases at Lawtons Drugs with the Lawtons Client Group Partner Discount Card.  UPSE members can enroll in the program by going to www.mhcsi.ca/enroll and contacting the UPSE office for their group name and password.  

There was healthy debate around the resolutions introduced at this year’s convention. Local 18 submitted a resolution proposing a four-year term for President of UPSE instead of the current three-year term.  Members in favour of this resolution asserted that a three-year term is not enough time for the President to become familiar with the position to develop relationships with key stakeholders.  It was also pointed out that there would be cost savings to move to a four-year term.  Members opposed to the resolution reminded the delegation that the term had already been changed before from a two-year term to a three-year term, and that three-years should give the President enough time to establish relationships and guide the union in a positive direction.  The delegation weighed the information presented and decided against the proposed four-year term for President.

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(Mark Arsenault, Second Vice President, UPSE)

UPSE’s Board of Directors submitted a resolution on bullying or harassing behaviour. The resolution states that members found to have been engaged in bullying or harassing behavior in the course of any union or union related activity will be required to successfully complete training in the areas of sensitivity, anger management, conflict resolution or similar programs prior to offering for or holding any elected office within UPSE or taking part in any Union activity where the complainant(s) may be present.  This strong stance against bullying and harassment was carried by the delegation.

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L-R Karen Jackson (UPSE President) and Kevin Gotell (UPSE Secretarty Treasurer)

In 2009 a .25 cent dues increase was implemented to pay for renovations to the UPSE building and UPSE has now completely paid for these renovations and is mortgage free.  In turn, the Finance Committee has submitted a resolution to invest $30,000 annually from the .25 cent dues increase approved in 2009 for the original building renovations, to a Building Renovation Fund for future maintenance and upkeep of the UPSE building beginning in the 2018-19 fiscal year.  The resolution also proposed that the balance of the .25 cents dues increase approved in 2009, be used to fund up to one (1) more $1000 and three (3) more $500 bursaries and that any remaining funds be allocated in addition to the next fiscal years’ UPSE has a Heart campaign. The delegation carried this resolution and in doing so protects the membership’s investment in the UPSE building and, also builds on UPSE’s bursary program and the UPSE Has a Heart campaign.

Local 18 submitted a resolution for UPSE to develop and implement a social media communication strategy and report results by next convention.  Delegates supported this resolution and suggested it was important especially for younger members who rely on more on social media for information.  Delegates also said social media will help promote UPSE’s campaigns more effectively and that UPSE should look at how other jurisdictions are using social media for input. 

Delegates carried further resolutions with great support on creating more subsidized housing for PEI residents, lobbying the government to remove tax on gasoline and diesel, developing a policy to automatically grant the waiving of dues for members absent from the workplace due to injury or disability, and changing the constitution so that the election of co-chair and alternate co-chair for the Steward’s Council shall be held no earlier than seventy-five days following the conclusion of the annual convention every two years in even numbered years. 

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L-R: Lynn Bovyer (Chair, Membership Services and Communications Committee), Chrissy Murphy (UPSE Member of the Year), and Karen Jackson (President, UPSE).

Chrissy Murphy was voted UPSE's Member of the Year for 2018. Lynn Bovyer was pleased to nominate Chrissy, a long-time activist who everyone knows. Lynn called Chrissy the "swag" lady and said “Chrissy is virtually everywhere whether it's the UPSE's golf tournament, Family Fun Day at Shining Waters, UPSE Christmas parties, UPSE has a Heart, the Bursary and Scholarship program or handing out gifts to members at convention. Chrissy has served as a Local Director, Chief Steward, Chair of the PR Committee and has participated in numerous rallies, campaigns and educationals. Chrissy is a true activist.” Chrissy thanked Lynn and the membership in receiving the award. She said that she is a proud UPSE member and she strives to look after fellow members in the workplace. She said it was an honour to be chosen as Member of the Year! 

Elections for the positions of Second Vice President and Secretary Treasurer were scheduled to take place at convention, however, both Mark Arsenault’s (UPSE Second Vice President) and Kevin Gotell’s (UPSE Secretary Treasurer) nominations went uncontested.  President Jackson thanked Mark and Kevin for their hard work in their respective roles and said that she looks forward to working with them during their new term of office with UPSE.    

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L-R: Edna Reid (Cooke Insurance), Jennifer Evans (General Manager, Stingray) and Karen Jackson (President, UPSE).

Your union made several donations at convention to worthy organizations and causes.  UPSE in partnership with Cooke Insurance donated a total of $5000 to the following organizations:


Montague Lions Club Toy Project

$500

Southern Kings & Queens Food Bank

$500

Salvation Army  - Summerside Food Bank

$500

Santa's Angels

$500

Souris Lions Club

$500

Caring Cupboard – Bloomfield

$500

Upper Room Food Bank

$500

Toys for Tots

$1000

Esther Finkle Fund

$500

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.

Larry Brown (President, NUPGE)
Alex Furlong (Director, Atlantic Region, CLC)
Serge Landry (Representative, Atlantic Region, CLC)
AL Mullin (First Vice President, NBUPPE)
Susie Proulx Daigle (President, NBUPPE)
Carle Pursey, (President, PEI Federation of Labour)
Arlene Sedlickas (General Vice President, NAPE)
Leonard Gallant (Vice-President / Acting President, CUPE)

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Left L-R: Susie Proulx Daigle (President, NBUPPE), Karen Jackson (President, UPSE), and AL Mullin (First Vice President, NBUPPE)

Right L-R: Carl Pursey (President, PEI Federation of Labour) and Arlene Sedlickas (General Vice President, NAPE)