President’s Report – June 30, 2020

Dear Sisters & Brothers, Colleagues, Friends:

 

We got through a challenging school year, and for that, I want to thank you for your continued perseverance and dedication.

Many of our 12-month employees will continue working in operations, maintenance and custodial work, and some will continue providing direct student and clerical services to the summer school operations.

Much of the curriculum instruction continues with online integration, and things are far from being back to normal, but nothing in life is certain and I hope that the period of emergency management has at least allowed us all to re-examine what truly matters in life, spend some time with those closest to us and gain a new appreciation for the old ‘normalcy.’

Kurt Vonnegut was a famous writer and professor of literary criticism who wrote about the importance of meaning and stories to human lives. He told a story in all his lectures of his uncle Alex, a Harvard graduate who died childless, who reminded people often about how rarely we stop, enjoy and appreciate when things are good in our lives.  Sitting under a tree somewhere in the mid-west, drinking lemonade with Alex is Vonnegut’s favourite memory. “Hey, stop, look, isn’t this nice? If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” uncle Alex would ask.

And so before we return to the hustle and bustle of the new school year, I hope your summer will be filled with plenty of moments of “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

I will continue working through the summer on the issues important to our membership and remain available for your calls, questions and conversation.

 

In solidarity,

 

 

 

 

Ian Hillman

 

 

Face Shields

Our union has acquired one hundred face shields. As we have 400 Education Assistants and 100 face shields, please only request one if you are working with students toileting and unable to physically distance. We can order more if we need to. Please email the union office if you could use one – cupe716office@gmail.com

President’s Report – May 27, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers, Colleagues, Friends:

As we approach June 1st, and a resumption of school services to the youth, I am grateful for all the many blessings, for your friendship, and for all you do.  Thank you.  We are all living and working through very uncertain times.

As June 1st approaches we still have many questions on school reopening.

I am not big on “what if’s.” Speculating on all the possibilities causes increased anxiety, worry and harms our solidarity.  We can only deal with what we know. As things unfold and as issues arise, we will address them. So far, we have had many concerns raised that we successfully resolved.

We worked hard to provide, first, for continued employment, and thus income at a time when many other workers received layoffs and businesses shut down.  Second, we worked to address system-wide failures or complications, that reflected the realities members reported to us.  Third, we addressed countless individual matters that arose concerning specific members.

All in all, we did very well.  Everyone received regular income while that was possible.  Now, most people are working, and those who are unable to come to work are either on government support or are using their sick days. Most people are not working full time hours but are getting paid full time wages.  This is something we should be thankful for and something that happened as a result of concerted efforts both at our Local level and at the provincial and regional levels of our union.

It is important for members to understand that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to provide for everything positive that happens.  We have been meeting with the employer to deal with issues as they arise. Things are changing daily, if not hourly.

Something else I want to clarify. It is my job to meet with the employer and fight for your interests. Meeting with the employer does not mean we are necessarily in agreement with a particular directive or policy. It also does not mean that because we disagree with a particular decision there is anything we can do about it.

I am not happy that managers and administrators have been telling you on occasion that “the union agreed to this”.  We have been advised or consulted on many things we don’t agree with but cannot change.  Some of the decisions being made are not made by the district. They are being made by the Ministry of Education, Provincial and Richmond Health officers and the CDC and BCCDC. In a state of emergency, they have extraordinary powers to assure maximum public welfare.  You should also know that your managers also tried very hard to look out for your welfare.

The union is here to advocate for you and to uphold the Collective Agreement. The employer has the contractual right to manage. Management is also human.  They also do not have all the answers.  We have a very good working relationship with the employer. There are some issues neither they, nor we, have control over.

Moving forward I urge everyone to work through this together.  I ask our members to engage with openness and flexibility and give each other the benefit of doubt.  There is often a lack of information or incomplete information. I am happy to answer any questions.

Being divided or having unnecessary conflict, or scapegoating, or jumping to conclusions benefits no one.

Many of us are scared.  I’m concerned for you, I’m concerned for my family. Same is true for managers and everyone in the organization.  Everyone is trying their best.

There are many unanswered questions. But nothing in life is certain and we surely stand a better chance when we confront adversity together.  Please join me in being a United team.

 

In solidarity

 

Ian Hillman

President CUPE 716