Dear Fellow AUPE Members.
In my previous “Direct Impact” message last December, I stated how relieved we all were to see 2020 in the rear-view mirror. The exceptional challenges of a deadly pandemic combined with the exhausting workplace insecurity created by an aggressive and short-sighted provincial government meant that AUPE members were struggling to save lives, while fighting to save their own livelihoods.
Of course, pandemics and governments, and other employers, don’t turn a new page when the calendar turns to a new year. Although there is certainly hope on the horizon that Covid is being wrestled into submission through the hard work of Albertans and the implementation of vaccines, the same couldn’t be said for reigning in attacks on AUPE members’ livelihoods. Job losses, and threats of job losses, continue, massive concessions are being sought at bargaining tables, and the recent provincial budget puts a bullseye on the backs of public sector workers.
Around the globe governments are stepping up to recognize and support the “front line heroes” fighting the pandemic. Here in Alberta those same workers are being treated as expendable and as scapegoats for the government’s own fiscal mismanagement. Albertans will not accept this. Instead, they have praised the tireless commitment of AUPE members, and other workers, in helping us all get through the pandemic.
And although Albertans will have an opportunity in two years to register their displeasure at the ballot box, we need to get ready to fight for jobs, services and livelihoods right now.
Regardless of what happens in the provincial election, if the government has it their way the damage will already be done. The job losses, the cuts, the privatization, the degradation of government services, post-secondary education, health care, and municipalities, and the dismantling of workers’ rights are all on the government’s ideological agenda. And where this agenda is most directly obvious to AUPE members is at the negotiating table, where cuts and rollbacks remain the mandate of the bosses.
So, it is through collective bargaining that we must focus our fight for jobs and services and against concessions and rollbacks. Nowhere is this more immediate than in direct bargaining with the Alberta government with our 22,000 members in government services.
Formal negotiations broke off on March 5 setting the stage for mediation and potential strike and/or lockout. Prior to these next steps an Essential Services Agreement (ESA) needs to be negotiated to determine what how many AUPE members would be required to provide services, as defined by law, “that the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the public, and that are necessary to the maintenance and administration of the rule of law or public security”. The ESA process is far from completion and is our intent to secure the strongest ESA possible. Also, it is not known yet how long it will take to establish dates for mediation once an ESA is in place.
But what is absolutely clear is that our members in government services will be the first group of workers in Alberta to confront the UCP government head on. And confront them we must, as an entire union, and with the support of other unions. There is no doubt that whatever the outcome of this struggle it will have real and lasting impacts at all other bargaining tables, worksites and communities across the entire province. That is an immense amount of pressure on our government members and our organizational operations that are working hard to mobilize them, prepare them and support them.
Therefore, it is crucial that ALL AUPE Locals and members support our government members as much as possible. Our solidarity that is the hallmark of our identity and success as a union over the past 102 years needs to be on full display and put into full action in the next few months.
We realize how serious the situation is and how high the stakes are. We must rely upon each other, support each other, stand with each other, uplift each other, show compassion to each other, and not back down from the fight that lays ahead. Because when we fight, we win!