Convention sends clear message: we’ll redouble fight against Campbell’s cuts

Capping off a week of passionate debate and creative protests against the B.C. government, close to 600 HEU delegates emerged from the union’s 23rd biennial convention strong, united and with a renewed fighting spirit to take on the reckless agenda of Gordon Campbell’s Liberals.

In a move that will help shape debate at next month’s B.C. Federation of Labour convention, delegates voted overwhelmingly to press for a stronger response from the labour movement using whatever tactics are necessary — including a general strike and more powerful community coalitions — in the fight to defeat the Liberals’ cruel right-wing agenda. And to back up that call, delegates from HEU locals from across the province gave similar overwhelming approval to a special assessment to build a fighting fund to take on Victoria.

The special fund will be used to finance campaigns to opposxe government cuts and facility closures. Initially, that money will come through a $10 per member levy for four consecutive pay periods. The timing for implementing the special assessment will be determined by the union’s newly elected 21-member Provincial Executive. Financial Secretary Mary LaPlante pledged to quickly provide more specific details on the mechanics of the levy.

But the tone for the convention was set early on in the week’s proceedings, first with the highly successful Oct. 7 Day of Defiance in Victoria that HEU strongly backed and many convention delegates helped lead. Then the entire convention sent its own message of defiance to the doorstep of Premier Campbell’s constituency office on Oct. 8, in a noisy, boisterous rally to serve notice that activists are prepared to step up the fight to protect services, jobs and communities.

The day included an occupation at Children’s and Women’s Hospital — a facility that’s in the forefront of the Liberals’ privatization sweepstakes — and a special salute to the 250-plus union members who’ve been disciplined for respecting picket lines and fighting back. Other stops included rallies at Pt. Grey Private Hospital, UBC Hospital, and then a demonstration in support of community social service workers’ efforts to force their bosses to make good on a negotiated wage increase. Later in the week, an impromptu occupation of Richmond Hospital was staged to protest the presence of Sodexho, the French corporation that manages food services at the facility.

Delegates were just as fired up at the microphones, sharing stories about the impact of Campbell’s agenda on their communities, and their efforts to resist. Recognizing that communities outside Vancouver and Victoria have been hardest hit so far, they unanimously demanded Victoria provide British Columbians in rural towns and cities with equal access to vital public services. Other key resolutions adopted included:

  • a condemnation of the Campbell Liberals’ closures of long-term care facilities and hospitals, and a call for a moratorium on such closures;
  • rejection of any plan to invest our pension funds in private-public partnerships;
  • a measure that blasted Victoria for eliminating the B.C. Human Rights Commission;
  • motions to support recall campaigns, back the NDP in the next election as part of a broad coalition to defeat the Liberals in the next election, and press for electoral reform in B.C.;
  • a demand that the provincial government restore funding for a variety of recently delisted medical services like chiropractic, optical and physiotherapy;
  • support for a national drug plan instead of Pharmacare cuts.
Delegates also heard insights from representatives of our social justice partners — including Joyce Jones of the B.C. Seniors’ Network, and Jaime Matten of the Canadian Federation of Students. And labour leaders like CUPE National president Judy Darcy and secretary treasurer Claude Généroux, along with Jim Sinclair of the B.C. Federation of Labour also provided inspiration.

The convention gavel — awarded to a local that exemplifies the union’s principles and commitment to social and economic justice — was awarded to members from two locals: Beacon Hill (Capilano Care Centre) on Vancouver’s North Shore, and Moberly Manor in Revelstoke for their heroic and successful efforts to fight the Campbell government’s coldhearted seniors care policies by preventing health authorities from closing their facilities.

An honorary membership was bestowed on Maurice Smith, a long-time Provincial Executive member who retired last year. Meanwhile, recently retired PE member David Ridley was also recognized, and Leo Bibo, likewise a former PE member who died this past summer, was remembered.

Some 70 constitutional amendments were also debated. While many were adopted, the major change involves the creation of a standing disciplinary panel for internal membership discipline issues.

Meet HEU’s new Provincial Executive

    President Fred Muzin

    Financial Secretary Mary LaPlante

    Secretary-Business Manager Chris Allnutt

    1st Vice president Colleen Fitzpatrick

    2nd Vice President Tom Knowles

    3rd Vice President Dan Hingley

    4th Vice President Laura Neil

    5th Vice President Casey O’Hern

    Senior Trustee Donisa Bernardo

    Senior Trustee-Elect Kelly Knox

    Trustee John Evans

    Member-at-large #1 Louise Hutchinson

    Member-at-large #2 Kathy Dunn

    Regional VP Fraser Valley Joanne Foote

    Regional VP Kootenays Susan Wilson

    Regional VP Okanagan Georgia Miller

    Regional VP LM-Centennial Bob Peacock

    Regional VP LM-Central Jaana Grant

    Regional VP LM-Coastal Cathy Pinsent

    Regional VP Vancouver Island Linda Hargreaves

    Regional VP North John Barrett