Why I won’t run

whyIwontrun

Dear CAPE members:

I have now decided not to run for re-election because I feel that I need time to heal from the incessant attacks that were levelled at me over the course of the last two years.

As I look back on my nearly three years in office, I can recall quite a few heartfelt and positive moments. I believe we succeeded in making important collective gains together and I appreciate that members gave me the opportunity to contribute to the best of my abilities in the pursuit of these achievements.

All of my interactions with CAPE members, during my term in office, were stimulating and instructive lessons in humility. It was a vision for a more engaged CAPE that spurred me and kindred spirits on the NEC to bring a new approach to the Association – one that put more of a premium on the voices of its members. CAPE members were consulted more than ever before; we supported the establishment of effective, democratic Locals. We, in turn, gave these Locals more autonomy to provide members with credible representation in their dealings with the employer. I can only hope that my successors will continue to build on this vision in order to enhance CAPE’s presence in the daily working lives of its members.

It’s my belief that a strong union must have a strong presence in the workplace. The Translation Bureau Local sets a strong example in this respect, with its network of stewards and its Facebook discussion platform (where I was able to glean some convincing arguments to put before the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the Bureau’s management). In fact, CAPE played a key role in changing Minister Foote’s position on the status of the Translation Bureau, and I take a great deal of pride in that achievement.

Achievements on behalf of the members

CAPE has an expert team of dedicated labour relations officers who work tirelessly to support members in need of individual representation. When local leaders work together with the national office staff on issues specific to a given workplace, it enables CAPE to promote these collective interests more effectively.

My proudest achievements during my term in office include the establishment of a defence fund, the strengthening of CAPE’s Locals, improved communications, ongoing member consultations, and the empowerment of CAPE’s committees. The Young Members Committee and the Education Committee, in particular, enabled members to learn more about the Association and become engaged in its future.

Our collective bargaining efforts resulted in a new provision on professional integrity. I championed this issue throughout 2015; my tour of locals indicated that this was an undeniable priority for our members. A survey of the membership, in early 2016, confirmed that professional integrity was a key issue as far as the members were concerned. I’m proud to say that we succeeded in obtaining more than we thought possible on this issue at the bargaining table, through the last-ditch mediation efforts.

Solidarity with other unions

To ward off the Conservative government’s avowed intention to slash sick leave benefits, the federal public service unions entered into and maintained a solidarity pact. As a result, there is now hope that a proposed alternative approach will benefit all employees in the next round of collective bargaining, which is slated to begin in 2018.

The unions also acted in solidarity by filing a lawsuit against the employer over its ham-handed roll-out of the Phoenix Pay System. At this juncture, we are continuing to pressure the employer on the issue. Proceedings have been placed in abeyance to give the employer an opportunity to right the ship, so to speak, but it seems clear that problems are not being resolved. Consequently, we are considering all possible means of redress.

Putting our own house in order

With regard to the governance of the organization, we had intended to revise CAPE’s constitution and bylaws. It’s my belief that our governing documents simply do not provide sufficient room for members to express their ideas and engage in debate on the issues that concern them. The crisis that shook CAPE underscored some of the inherent weaknesses of the Association’s bylaw on discipline, in which we became hopelessly entangled, expending hundreds of thousands of dollars of your union dues in the process.

I hope that whoever succeeds me will make a serious effort to review CAPE’s constitution and bylaws in order to allow the members to play a more active role in the Association. Members shouldn’t have to stand idly by as costly internal power struggles play themselves out.

Destructive internal conflict

My presidency was unfortunately marred by an internal crisis that ran far deeper than most of you could even suspect. Apart from the barrage of complaints against me, I was constantly impeded in my efforts to look after the day-to-day management of CAPE. As a result, I kept having to unduly concentrate on justifying my actions, rather than putting all of my time and energy into such important matters as Phoenix and other mobilizing projects – projects such as joining the Canadian Labour Congress, which I still believe is in the membership’s best interest.

Everything I went through over the last two years has caused me to think long and hard about my future. The petition that almost put an end to my presidency was full of false accusations that became an albatross around my neck. Most members never even saw the investigation report that cleared me entirely of all but one of the over 40 allegations. After I served out a five-week suspension without pay and after a vote on my removal from office failed to garner sufficient member support, my opponents did not let up. They continued to attack me, calling my every action into question. An unscrupulous campaign of anonymous underhanded attacks against me was conducted on social media throughout most of 2016. And when the names of the culprits were found out, they were unapologetic, even though they had compared me to Stalin, Hitler, Big Brother, Frank Underwood and Donald Trump. In addition, confidential documents – documents dealing with sensitive human resource issues – were leaked and published on social media under the pretext that my administration lacked transparency.

I did not want to stoop to their level. I could have responded more firmly, or used CAPE resources to launch a campaign to set right the lies and misinformation that were being posted on social media. Some of my fellow NEC members and I, however, felt it would be more virtuous for us to keep our hands clean and avoid rolling around in the muck with them, which was clearly what they wanted us to do. Perhaps in this case, we were wrong to take the high road.

These underhanded tactics have no place in a union. I have always advocated for a robust battle of ideas. In any democracy, there will be differing opinions and competing visions. That’s par for the course. But at the end of the day, we have to come back to our core values: mutual respect and a desire to work in solidarity for the good of the membership. When some individuals choose to stoop to anonymous attacks, lies, vitriol and threats, they are no longer engaging in the democratic process. What I fear the most – what I find so odious about this – is that the reprehensible behaviour of a few will severely discourage the participation of members in our political process and undermine CAPE’s ability to recruit new volunteers. I saw that reluctance first-hand when I approached a few long-time CAPE leaders, asking them whether they were putting their name forward for a NEC positions. They were reluctant; they weren’t eager to have their personal lives divulged or their every move challenged on social media.

A difficult decision

I wondered whether stepping aside could be perceived as an admission of guilt; I therefore hesitated until the very last minute before deciding whether I should run for a second term as your president. By standing for re-election, I could have demonstrated my unwillingness to back down in the face of the intimidation and harassment tactics, which my opponents have used in their efforts to injure my reputation, undermine my professional ethics and ultimately get rid of me. But all of these attacks have put a considerable strain on my physical and mental health, as well as on my personal and family life. The weight of the latter alone has ultimately tipped the scales for me; thus, I have now decided to stand down and not run for re-election. Even the strongest engagement principles are not worth putting my health and work-life balance in jeopardy. So, I have made this decision in the interest of self-preservation.

I am also taking the interests of the members to heart. If I were to run and win reelection, it seems likely that the handful of opponents who are obsessed with causing my downfall would continue their incessant attacks. Regrettably, our internal discipline mechanisms have, to date, not yielded any form of consequences for their harmful actions and I have little confidence that they will. This would result in a continuing expenditure of union resources on costly procedural battles – my opponents having refused on numerous occasions to resolve our disputes through mediation. Indeed, while they may not excel at putting forth ideas, they are experts at using the system to their advantage.

Because it’s important for people to take responsibility for their actions, I must acknowledge that I am not as pure as the driven snow and that I did make some mistakes – mistakes for which I have admitted fault and paid the penalty.

My opponents should also defend their positions with courage and transparency. Several individual NEC members made it their unremitting mission to undermine my integrity and professionalism. They know who they are. I hope these people, once they realize that I will not be a candidate for the presidency of the Association, will have the dignity to step aside themselves. Their bullheaded insistence on lodging more and more unfounded complaints against me and their bold-faced and anonymous attacks against some of my allies on the National Executive Committee and, more perniciously, against CAPE employees, have done immeasurable damage to the Association.

So, what now?

There are four months remaining in my term as President. I would have liked to leave more of a legacy by effectively promoting CAPE’s membership in the Canadian Labour Congress. This past summer’s survey on the issue showed us that the task of informing the membership may take longer than four months. I remain convinced that joining the CLC is essential for CAPE and I will continue to work towards this goal after I return to being an ordinary member. Even the Association of Canadian Financial Officers has now joined the CLC. Perhaps we, as CAPE members, once we are all better informed, will consider doing the same. When it comes to looking after the broader interests of social justice, joining the CLC would be a step in the right direction It’s important to note that the next great cause to be championed by the CLC will be the issue of pay equity in the federal public service. This is a matter of considerable importance to our predominantly female TR community, whose members earn salaries far below those earned in male-dominated professions requiring fewer skills and less formal education in the same federal public service.

I will close on a positive note. I am optimistic that some of the Locals that were created or strengthened during my term in office will continue to demand that CAPE play a front-line role and provide a strong and credible voice in dealings with the employer. We are privileged to have a reputation for defending the rights of our members with well-documented, fact-based arguments, and by suggesting innovative approaches that often benefit both our members and management. This does not mean that we are complacent; rather, it indicates that we are on the lookout for creative solutions to changing problems.

The progressive mandate I sought to implement over my three years in office was supported by more members than anyone could have predicted. CAPE has always been considered a small-c “conservative” union that would never consider strike action. But many of you have asked why we are not already in the streets to demand real action on Phoenix! During consultations and my own interactions with many of you, you’ve indicated to me that you want more out of your union than a narrow vision of the specific interests of the EC and TR groups. Rather, you want a union that can stand up for and promote your rights, the integrity of the public service and the general interests of all Canadians, particularly the most vulnerable elements of our society.

With my sincere solidarity and appreciation for all that you contribute to public affairs through your day-to-day professional activities, I want to thank you for this opportunity to have been your spokesperson. I promise to continue to serve you to the best of my ability throughout the remaining months of my term in office.

Emmanuelle Tremblay
National President
Canadian Association of Professional Employees

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