NUPGE Leadership Development School wraps-up | National Union of Public and General Employees

NUPGE Leadership Development School wraps-up

395 activists have graduated from NUPGE’s Leadership Development School

Keene (25 Aug. 2016) – The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) 18th annual Leadership Development School ended with participants looking forward to sharing the knowledge they acquired to build a stronger labour movement. The activists and staff at the school looked at some of the issues our members are facing, and worked to acquire the skills needed to build a strong union.

So-called trade deals’ “charters of rights” for wealthy corporations

In the final session, President Larry Brown led a discussion of the trade deals the federal government is considering and the threat those trade deals pose to quality public services. Both the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are more about protecting wealthy investors and corporations than improving trade.

“Both CETA and the TPP are about limiting the ability of governments to control the actions of multinational corporations,” said Larry Brown, NUPGE President.

“Governments trying to protect the environment or public services can be forced to compensate corporations for any lost profits,” said Brown. “That even covers expanding public services or reversing privatization.”

Protecting workers mental health

NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer Elisabeth Ballermann led participants in a discussion of mental health in the workplace. There is growing awareness of the impact psychologically unsafe workplaces have on workers.

“Psychological injuries resulting from work are taking an unacceptable toll on our members.  As leaders we must ensure that we recognize this and work to prevent where possible, and demand that they be treated as seriously as any other work injury where they could not be prevented,” said Ballermann.

Participants spoke about the consequences of psychologically unsafe workplaces and the roles unions have to play. These roles range from educating members to fighting proposals that threaten the mental health of our members.

Employers have a responsibility to provide a psychologically safe work place, but we need to hold their feet to the fire.

Canadians for Tax Fairness get people excited about taxes

When Dennis Howlett, Executive Director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, is leading the discussion, taxes are an exciting topic. Howlett walked participants through how large corporations and the wealthy are paying less than their fair share and what we can do to change it.

While poor and middle-income individuals face hefty fines or jail time for small-scale tax evasion, the wealthy and large corporations aren’t even getting a slap on the wrist. Wealthy individuals caught using a KPMG tax haven scheme weren’t even fined. KPMG has faced no penalties and is still advising the Canada Revenue Agency.

Howlett explained what’s needed to get serious about tax evasion by the wealthy and large corporations. That includes a reporting requirement to make it hard to hide money in tax havens, and going after companies and individuals that facilitate tax evasion. While the Federal Finance Minister claims that closing tax loopholes will only increase revenues by $3 billion, Canadians for Tax Fairness have identified $13 billion in potential gains.

Preparing for drastic changes in what work looks like

In 10 to 20 years, many of the jobs in our economy will no longer exist, warned former NUPGE president, and head of the Canadian Labour Institute, James Clancy. That includes jobs done by NUPGE members. To illustrate his point, Clancy used the example of “dark factories,” which run with no workers inside. 

Responding to the problem of jobs disappearing due to technology requires figuring out what to do for people who become unemployed and how unions can maintain robust memberships. Part of the reason the Canadian Labour Institute was set up was to look at how we meet those challenges. Clancy said the goal is anticipating changes before bosses introduce them.

395 activists have graduated from NUPGE’s Leadership Development School

By the end of this year’s school, 395 people will have graduated from NUPGE’s Leadership Development School. Like others before them, participants in the 18th annual school left ready to take on new challenges in their union and in their communities.

Other sessions

  • How the debates in the 2015 federal election caused people to start thinking about what it means to be Canadian and vote based on values rather than narrow self-interest (Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star columnist).
  • What people in leadership roles need to do to ensure accountability and good governance for the union (NUPGE President Larry Brown).
  • Exploring 3 Supreme Court of Canada decisions in 2015, known as the Labour Trilogy, that expanded the protection for unions in the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms, and what has happened since those decisions (Paul Cavalluzzo, Senior Partner at Cavalluzzo Shilton McIntyre Cornish, and one of Canada’s leading labour lawyers).
  • Challenges and opportunities for unions in Britain, the U.S. and Australia (Mike Short from Unison, Helen Thomas from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Shay Deguara from Unions New South Wales)


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE