Presidents Report – May 2021

Dear Members,

I am writing today to update you on where we stand in the Budget process for next year.  We have met multiple times with Richmond’s MLA’s to discuss the shortfall and funding levels, however despite this lobbying they have declined. They based their decision on the fact the District has a 9.8 million dollar surplus. We understand that there needs to be some surplus maintained for unexpected situations, but strongly believe that this is the time to spend more of it.  Like we have said many times, it is a rainy day, it is time to spend the rainy day fund. Thank you to Trustee Richard Lee for advocating for the Trustees to spend more of the surplus so that our members can continue to work to support the students of SD 38. Unfortunately he was not supported by the other Trustees but we appreciate his advocacy. The budget was passed and Trustee Lee was the only one to vote no. 

I am still taken aback by the fact the district wasn’t interested in being more creative in looking at other areas to balance the budget. I am sure we all know of ways the district could save money other than cutting our jobs. But they chose not to. 

We are also trying to work with the employer on the Educational Assistant downsizing. Your Union believes any downsizing, regardless of the FTE allocation, should be done by seniority. The employer disagrees. We have filed a grievance on this.

We now have to support our members who will lose their jobs. I can’t imagine the stress and anxiety they have been experiencing waiting for the budget to pass. Now that it has, the reality is setting in, they are really going to lose their jobs. I ask you to join me in saying we are here for you and will do everything we can to support you moving forward. If there ever was a time for solidarity – it is now.

In Solidarity

Ian Hillman

Cupe 716 President

President’s Report: Budgets April 2021

Dear Members,

As many of you may have heard our School District is facing a 7.2 million dollar shortfall. No decisions have been finalized on how this budget will be balanced as required by law. Your executive is working hard to prevent any cuts to us.

I encourage and frankly implore you to write to your MLA, and Member of Parliament and tell them to fund School Districts that are in a deficit situation due to the current pandemic.

Jennifer Whiteside: Minister of Education

Or:

Locate your MLA here

Locate your MP here

I also ask you to write our School Trustees:

Norm Goldstein

Ken Hamaguchi

Heather Larson

Richard Lee

Sandra Nixon

Donna Sargent

Debbie Tablotney

Implore them to look at cutting management positions and using more of the reserve funds to balance the budget instead of cutting vital support staff. I also ask you to attend the next school board meeting on Wednesday April 28th at 7pm and express your concern about how they will balance the budget and be straightforward expressing it should not be done on the backs of CUPE workers. Please register to attend here on Zoom.

Please don’t be alarmed by the shortfall at the present time. No decisions have been made but we need to be heard before decisions are made. There is strength in our resolve to stand together as one collective force and have each other’s backs moving forward. Please take a few minutes to call or email all of the above.

In Solidarity

 

Ian Hillman

CUPE 716 President

President’s Report – March 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters of our Union:

After a year of being there for the students of the district, relief is in sight for us. We have stepped up and through this pandemic have been on the front lines keeping the schools open, clean, and supporting the students, the teachers and each other.

It is a huge relief to know we have been prioritized to be vaccinated in April. Your Union has been working diligently behind the scenes for this past year to make this day happen, to ensure your safety and to get through this together. Throughout this period, CUPE has invested our efforts in direct communication with the government and the results speak for themselves.

Words cannot express how proud I am of all of our CUPE Staff for working through these anxious and stressful times. We may not always get the mention in the press, but the schools could not operate without our efforts, and I am immensely proud of all of you.

This pandemic has touched all of us. Finally getting prioritized for the vaccine is a huge step in protecting us and heading us down the path to the new normal.

Once again we should all be proud of how we have been there for each other and our students. We have kept strong through very adverse, trying and uncertain circumstances. I am in awe of your strength and resilience, and I also wish to extend a thank you to all our partners, district staff and the teachers for their efforts.

In Solidarity,

Ian Hillman, CUPE 716 President

President’s Report – 2020 Year End

To all CUPE 716 members,

On behalf of the executive I wish you all a joyful and restful holiday season. Winter break is almost here. Please take some time to rest and recuperate. It has been an unprecedented time not only in our work lives but our personal lives. Try to reflect on the positives. Words cannot capture the mixture of emotions and stress we have all been through.

Unfortunately the Government has not made mask wearing mandatory in schools. Wherever and whenever possible if you are able to, please wear a mask to help keep you and others safe. We continue to work diligently to keep you safe and advocate the district follow all safety protocols.

Let’s continue to support and be there for each other now more than ever. Report any unsafe conditions you see to your supervisor, your safety committee and your union. We are only strong when we are united together.

Enjoy some time away from work. Look after yourself and your loved ones.

In Solidarity,

Ian Hillman, CUPE 716 President

President’s Report – Nov 18, 2020

Sisters and Brothers, Friends, Colleagues

As I write this, I am naturally confronted by challenging thoughts.  As a union activist, I am tempted to tell you about all the many challenges our members face both in our local and across the province during this pandemic.   I hear from many members on a regular basis.  Sometimes you only need an ear or a shoulder to cry on; at other times, you need some assistance, or real help.

As a father, I wish I could present you with a solution that would make all of us, including my family, totally safe.  I wish I could have the magic words that would raise your spirits and solve all our problems.

Instead, all I can do is tell you the truth.

And the truth is that this pandemic has been grueling and exhausting for all of you, and for all of us in the union leadership.  It has been exhausting for management.  It has been exhausting for the medical professionals and everyone in health and political leadership.  And having encountered everything we’ve seen thus far, I find I am no closer to having those magic words than I had been up to now.  Fear and stress is still something I hear about from you every day.  And most of the time, these days, all I can do is listen.  No one, and especially me, can protect us completely from the realities of mortal beings.

Having said that, in times of great anxiety, it does us all good to look at some facts, and use data to put things into perspective.

The year 1860 was not very long ago.  That was the year Louis Pasteur proved his germ theory: the French scientist had been proclaimed an eccentric weirdo for embracing a theory advanced by several others that organisms that are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye were the cause of human illnesses.  Prior to 1860, then, we didn’t know the cause of our illnesses.  Pandemics came and went and in the process killed millions, like the medieval plagues, which in one iteration killed 40% of all people in Europe.

In 1913, the first surgery with the use of generalized anesthesia was performed.  Prior to then, surgical procedures were commonly performed with the patient wide awake and sometimes without anything to alleviate the pain, conscious and feeling every see of the saw.

And the list of things for which one ended up under the knife was long – since we didn’t know about the existence of antibiotics until Fleming in 1929, for the entirety of human history, including for most of our modern history, human beings were born and died at incredible rates in childhood, from common illnesses we think of today as not much more than nuisances, like scrape or cut infections, strep throat, or bronchitis.

Something commonly cured today with a single dosage of antibiotics, like strep throat, killed enormous numbers of people every year, especially children.  For those lucky enough to make it into their teenage years, the prospect of survival increased significantly, and they would often go on to live lives almost as long as those we live today, showing that the primary difference in lifespans historically can be attributed to deaths in childhood, something most of us find inconceivable today.

So, someone living in 1910, right here in Richmond, who worked on a farm, as did most people who lived in 1910, who caught an infection on their foot from a laceration while walking barefoot, was at high likelihood of needing to have a leg amputation to prevent the infection from spreading elsewhere to the body.  And to make matters worse, they would have probably had the leg amputatated while conscious and with minimal pain control.

While the pandemic is stressful, challenging and frightening, we have to remember, that knock on wood, I am not aware of any of our members catching the virus or being exposed, who have not recovered, or who have had lingering health complications, and all the exposures thus far have been handled relatively well with some minor hickups and disputes over pay; all in all, however, with respect to the health of those impacted, and their families, no one has died, and no one is seriously ill.  That gives us a great deal to be grateful about – but it also hopefully confirms the effectiveness of the science-based systems the health authorities have put in place.

Sometimes, we cannot give or get full reassurances to our members in cases of exposures that the health staff have conducted contact tracing and quarantines correctly; this has been a source of frustration for some members.  They want to be able to know who was exposed, by whom, when, and so on, to do their own risk assessment to double-check the work of the health authority staff, but this is simply not possible.  There are privacy regulations in place and neither the union nor the employer make any of these decisions.  Most members have acted courageously and have trusted the personnel making these decisions – and with good results.  A few members, however, have chosen to direct their frustration at the union, given the obvious negative consequences of doing so against the employer, and that has unfortunately been a source of emotional stress and challenge for all of us on the Executive Board, but particularly Stacey Robinson, Nancy Williams and myself.   Our members are protected in the workplace by the employer’s anti-harassment policy, and in their union activities by CUPE’s anti-harassment regulations, but I am remiss to tell you that in what is becoming too regular of an unfortunate occurrence, the approach and choice of language some members choose while interacting with the Union officers is disheartening to say the least, and outright abusive in some cases.

The reality is that neither the employer nor the union have any authority over health matters in a pandemic.  The emergency powers enacted by the provincial government and its delegated authority entities mandate for the health officers of the regions to decide on matters of health, and with good reason.  There are also various privacy regulations that prohibit the disclosure of medical information except as required to accomplish the purpose at hand.  If any of us caught the virus, we certainly would not be pleased if we heard that people who we didn’t even interact with had been given our names all simply to scrutinize the decisions of the health personnel.

What this moment requires is some trust. The people doing contact tracing and making these decisions have showed us by their work that they know what they’re doing and we should do whatever we can to follow their directions and cooperate with their work.

So, as Mederna and Pfizer announce their vaccine effectiveness, and as we gear up to begin mass vaccinations which will probably be under way toward the end of the school year in the Spring of 2021, let’s reflect on where we have been up to this point.

When the epidemic started, and many people stayed at home, those of us involved in running the union never had the luxury of complete quarantine, and had to attend various meetings and answer questions day and night and assist with facilitating K-12 education in a new normal.

Stacey and Colleen came to the union office to make masks at the time we couldn’t purchase any.  CUPE activated all our efforts to assure that our members continued getting paid, and not only succeeded in providing regular pay for all our members throughout the shut down, but even succeeded at having regular pay apply rather than sick pay for those members who did not answer the call-out to provision childcare services for the essential workers. That did not happen in other sectors, and many people were laid off and seriously impacted by the pandemic.

We were part of efforts to lobby both the provincial and the federal government and secured additional funding that has been used to hire additional custodians, provide for increased cleaning and purchase protective equipment.  We have assisted countless members with grievances and problems they encountered.  We scrambled to continue our work, never putting our own safety at the forefront, holding meetings, holding a virtual election, purchasing our own supply of face shields for members, and pushing against the employer whenever and as much as we could.

Our efforts have resulted in the provision of vital services to the students, distribution of food to the undernourished kids, and the maintenance and enforcement of our collective agreement – with pending wage increases in each year of the collective agreement.

At the end of the day, we have built, over the years, an infrastructure of safety nets that today provides our members with health and safety regulations, a WCB system, sick days, duty to accommodate, right to a voice in the workplace, political engagement and lobby efforts that have built our bargaining power such that we have gotten raises with no job action or wages lost, an EI system, maternity and parental leaves, extended health and dental benefits, and even a joint trusteeship long-term disability plan for those members who become very sick or disabled and don’t qualify for any of the other safety net schemes.

We have protected our jobs even in a pandemic, assured no layoffs, kept people employed, resolved countless individual issues, assisted members in accommodations, pushed governments for more funding, elected worker friendly representatives, implemented equality and respect for all our members and made sure our members are paid so they can put bread on the table.  To the best of our knowledge, nobody has been seriously hurt by COVID in our local and all the exposures thus far have been handled relatively well, with some minor issues about sick pay during quarantine which we have grieved and are trying to remedy.

As we find hope in the efforts of the scientists, we work to enable the education of the next generation of scientists.  We are all a part of building a better future.

Let’s stay vigilant and continue our efforts and support one another as we look toward a better day.

 

I am always available for your questions and inquiries, in solidarity,

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Hillman, CUPE 716 President

 

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

 

 

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

President’s Report COVID

Sisters and Brothers, Friends, who would have anticipated that the sunshine and the longer days would also bring with them this global scare?

I have been a little under the weather personally, but I wish to thank Stacey Robinson, our First VP, Nancy Williams, Second VP and Chief Steward, Ingrid Trouw, Secretary-Treasurer, Lisa Devitt, Recording-Secretary, our entire Executive Board, and our National Representative, Dan Todd.

CUPE Regional office for British Columbia has been working full-steam since the crisis, and our CUPE BC President Paul Faoro has been doing a stellar job liaising with the Provincial Government. What this means for you, our member, is that we are working on ironing out all those kinks which you never even hear about, and our leadership is in negotiations with the various stakeholders to assure that you continue being paid and your families continue being able to put food on the table. This is not a small task. It is human nature to worry, but it is also human nature to underestimate and take for granted that which others do for us – let’s appreciate and thank those in leadership making sure everything goes as smooth as possible, and be thankful for the silverlinings.

We are in daily communications with our National Representative, CUPE BC, CUPE National, and they in turn are coordinating, negotiating and liaising with various government ministries and agencies. You can relax and wait to hear from us. We will update you as soon as we hear information or any news important to you.

As it stands now, it is my belief that you will continue receiving your regular pay. Take some time to spend with your family and your loved ones. Try not to worry. Try not to spend too much time on facebook or pursuing conspiracy theories. All will be well.

On behalf of all our Executive Team, on behalf of CUPE BC officers, on behalf of the National Regional Staff hard at work behind the scenes, and on my own behalf, I send you best wishes to stay healthy and well, keep your spirits high, and in keeping with our ancient traditions: Keep calm, and Carry on.

In solidarity,

Ian Hillman,
President, CUPE 716

President’s Report – January 2020

Here we are with another January fading, the days are slowly getting longer, and spring is (almost) in the air. I extend to you the happiest wishes for the Chinese Lunar New Year. Gong Hey Fat Choi! Just a brief update from your Union on how things are going from our angle and also to update you on a few items.
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President’s Report Sept 2019

Welcome to another school year.  I will make my report brief.

When I became president a few years ago, the Local was in a very difficult position. We had had a change-over in management and many difficulties followed, including a labour relations climate that we did not expect.  Today, I am happy to report that countless issues have been resolved, and we completed bargaining with good results that will assure 0.5hrs per week more for our Education Assistants who have been struggling to get hours since those were decimated by previous governments.

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