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Q. What's this National Capital Region Council, anyway?
A. Well, to make a long story short, your union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, has moved to regionalize your leadership and much union activity, like education, health and safety, political action, and other work.
Q. "Regionalize its leadership?" What's that supposed to mean?
A. The former PSAC leadership were all national officers. Now there are seven Regional Executive Vice-Presidents (REVPs), each accountable to a region (while holding national portfolios too), and a National President and National Vice-President. REVPs are elected at the PSAC Triennial Convention by delegates from their respective regions.
Q. What's the "Council" you were mentioning?
A. Regional Councils are set up in each of the seven regions across the country. The National Capital Region Council has some of the most active Local, Component and regional leaders around. In fact, the Council itself includes a delegate from every Local and from every regional body (equity committees, Area Council) and every Component regional officer. We meet three times a year, with the Annual General Meeting in May. The Executive includes: 13 members elected at the AGM, including separate employer representatives; the Regional Vice-President for Countries Outside Canada; delegates of recognized equality-seeking groups; and the REVP, who presides. Those are a lot of strong and responsible voices in the region, with direct access to the top PSAC leadership. And many of them find their way as delegates to the PSAC Triennial Convention, where the REVP for the NCR is elected.
Q. OK, nice and democratic-but why do we need yet another structure? Can't the REVP just make a few calls if he or she wants to know what the members think?
A. There are around 35,000-40,000 members in the NCR. That's a lot of calls. If the REVP is to be truly accountable to his/her region, it makes more sense to be accountable to people who are regional leaders in their own right. That's the NCR Council! Since you are a PSAC member in this region, you have access, through your Local, your Component RVP or through your regional body if you belong to one.
But anyway, it's not just about the REVP. The Council is made up of regional activists, and is a forum for them-they can network, share information, take on projects together, give direction about union education in the region, attend workshops. It's a good place to work together to develop our region, improve communications, and move our union forward.
Q. I hate clichés, but-what's in it for me?
A. I'm glad you asked that question. First of all, are you an activist?
Q. Hey, I'm asking the questions here. I'm just somebody who wants to know more-OK?
A. OK. The reason I asked was that the Council has something for everyone. Say you're an activist, for example. Sometimes you feel kind of isolated. There you are, working away in your Local or, often without a lot of help from co-workers. Big issues of the day-collective bargaining, pay equity, regional rates of pay, downsizing, contracting-out, privatization, classification, you name it-get pretty overwhelming. So what do you do? (Sorry, that was another question.)
Your Component helps. The PSAC headquarters helps. You have fellow activists who help. But the region is a resource too. Maybe other Locals have similar problems getting members interested, or running things effectively. Some might have found solutions. It's likely that some of the other regional activists have some good ideas. Perhaps you have some that you can share with them. This is networking at its best, with some of the most experienced and capable people in the region.
Q. That's it? People talking to each other?
A. Well, don't minimize the importance of communicating. But it goes farther than that. Maybe you're from a separate employer, looking for support on the ground when push comes to shove at collective bargaining time, whether for information pickets, leafletting or whatever. Maybe you're from an equality-seeking group, interested in pushing human rights issues. Could be your interest is health and safety. Or union education. Or political action. Or communications. Or. Local Development. At the Council you'll find like-minded people discussing and implementing action on your issues.
Q. What's this "Local Development" stuff?
A. Glad you asked. See, the NCR has a lot of Locals in it. Some are working well, with good membership involvement, a lot of union awareness-a real force to be reckoned with, in the workplace and in the region. But other Locals are struggling: hundreds of members, dozens of worksites, and two or three harried volunteers trying to hold it all together. That's no good for the activists, and certainly no good for the members as a whole. And if it's not good for the members, it's not good for the union.
Without strong membership involvement in your workplaces and in your region, the union is unable to move forward-because you, the members, ARE the union. So that's why the top priority for us in this region is Local Development. We see a real partnership, a meeting of the minds, among the Regional Office staff, the Components, the Locals and the NCR Council. Let's pool our talents, commitment, energy, knowledge and resources!
For example, the Regional Council's Education Committee is responsible for allocating the education budget in this region, and developing the Alliance Facilitator network-members who can provide on-the-spot training to Locals to answer specific Local needs. Our Communications Committee facilitates links among Locals, as does our Separate Employer network. All other regional bodies, which report to the NCRC, take up issues likely to be of interest to some of your members-issues like equity, health and safety, political action and community involvement. Council Executive members are assigned to keep in touch with NCR Locals, so that there should be a regular channel of communication between the Council and your Local. .
Q. What if I'm not an activist?
A. No one expects everyone to be an activist, and no one expects every activist to be an activist all the time. But just wanting to find out about your union, about the effectiveness of collective action, about what you're paying dues for, means that you have a reason to check into the NCRC.
The Council is one good way of finding out about what other members are doing to resolve problems, to fight for rights in the workplace and for a better deal from their employers, and to work in their communities. It's a place to network and to get involved in the issues that are important to you. But if you just want to know more, the Council is an excellent resource.
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