HEU deeply disturbed by legal bid to exclude our union from next week’s CUPE national convention in Vancouver

More constructive approaches through House of Labour to be sought

The Hospital Employees’ Union says it’s deeply disturbed by a legal challenge mounted by a local of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in which the B.C. Supreme Court will be asked to exclude HEU from being able to participate in CUPE’s national convention, which gets underway in Vancouver Nov. 19.

HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says the court bid is linked to a hotly contested election for one of CUPE’s two senior leadership positions, and attacks from one of the campaigns about HEU’s delegate entitlement for the convention.

The increasingly nasty campaign to replace national secretary-treasurer Geraldine McGuire has pitted progressive Quebec activist Claude Generoux—whom HEU supports—against Ontario’s Sid Ryan.

“Clearly, supporters and senior leaders of Ryan’s campaign are trying to rely on the Supreme Court instead of sitting down and using the democratic processes within CUPE to resolve disagreements,” says Allnutt. “What makes this such a troubling approach is that the Ryan campaign is using the courts in exactly the same way employers do to tie the hands of workers and their unions.”

Given the huge repercussions for the labour movement in B.C., Allnutt says HEU is seeking more constructive discussions and solutions within the House of Labour instead of seeking refuge in the courts.

“We’re extremely troubled by the time, energy and resources that are being poured into these partisan efforts to prevent us from participating in the convention of our own national union that’s set to take place in our own province,” Allnutt says.

“When you look at the massive attack right-wing governments in B.C. and elsewhere in Canada are launching on health care, education, and public services, we should be devoting all of our energy to work together to defend our members’ jobs and protect services for Canadians,” he says. “This court application will only serve to divide and weaken our efforts to fight back.”

The court action was filed this morning in Vancouver by lawyers representing the president of CUPE Local 873, which represents ambulance paramedics and E-comm workers in B.C. It seeks leave for a Supreme Court hearing Thursday and argues that the 1994 CUPE/HEU merger agreement that brought HEU back into CUPE should be declared null and void based on technicalities. And it seeks an injunction to bar HEU from the upcoming convention.

Affidavits in support of the court application were filed by Ryan’s campaign manager, and the current national secretary treasurer, who also supports Ryan. But Allnutt says HEU will stay focused on the real issues affecting public sector workers in B.C. “We need to ensure that the 2,000-plus delegates to the convention of Canada’s largest union send a clear and powerful message that CUPE members will fight hard to prevent right-wing governments from gutting health, education and other vital public services to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

“We’re confident,” says Allnutt, “that when the dust settles on these legal maneuverings, all 200 HEU delegates will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the convention floor with our CUPE Sisters and Brothers to defend Medicare and public services.”