From August 30, 2007 Newspapers
Congratulations again to everyone who participated in last week’s march and rally at City Hall. There was lots of coverage in the August 30th newspapers:
“City Hall is anti-union, strikers day” (Globe & Mail, pS3)
“Strikers Take to Streets” (24hrs, p3)
“Frustration erupts in six-week strike” (Metro Vancouver, p3)
“Striking workers hitting financial straits (Metro Vancouver, p3)
“Hundreds turn out for strike rally” (Vancouver Sun, ppB1, B4)
“Strikers tell mayor it’s his call on a deal: 2000 rally at city hall” (The Province, pA6)
On a less positive note, Vancouver Sun guest columnist John Mortimer perpetuates a common myth of the anti-union movement, namely that unions want to eliminate merit as a factor in hiring, scheduling and promotion practices, and have seniority govern all job competitions (“Seniority Rules! (But it shouldn’t): Civic union locals are offside with demands that time on the job trump merit in promotions – Vancouver Sun, August 30, 2007, pA15.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Unions continue to recognize merit and performance as key elements in choosing the successful candidates for hiring and promotion opportunities. However, unions strongly believe that where merit is equal among candidates, seniority should come into play as the deciding factor between them.
What we have proposed to the Employer is that shifts for only auxiliary and Part-Time hours should be by seniority. When there is no job competition to determine competitive knowledge, skills, and abilities, we think it is reasonable to assume that seniority would be a fair way to deal with the assignment of hours. If the Employer is concerned about the merit of the employees, then the onus is on the Employer to hold a competition for each specific set of hours. Then if two employees are deemed relatively equal seniority applies. Having said this, it is doubtful that the Employer would engage in this practice.
On the other side, what is so bad about seniority? Why shouldn’t a loyal, qualified employee not receive credit for the length of service to the employer?
Readers should note that John Mortimer is the President of the Canadian LabourWatch Association (http://www.labourwatch.com/home/index.php), an organization that claims to represent the interests of individual employees, particularly in their relationships with unions. They present information on such issues as union recruitment practices, bargaining unit certification (and de-certification), and how to cancel a union card. A casual perusal of their frequently asked questions (http://www.labourwatch.com/faqs/employee/bc/index.php) and their list of member organizations (http://www.labourwatch.com/about/members.php) reveals much about their true feelings about unions and where they stand on labour-management relations.
In a similar vein, Globe & Mail columnist Gary Mason claims that CUPE enjoys an unfair advantage in the battle for the hearts and minds of the public (“Nothing fair about this fight” – Globe & Mail, August 30, 2007, ppS1, S3 – note: electronic version of this column is available to paying subscribers only). He maintains that “CUPE has brilliantly pinned the blame for the entire affair on the city’s beleaguered mayor – it’s now ‘Sam’s Strike’ – while somehow persuading people its motives are not at all political.” Councillor Suzanne Anton made similar claims in the Georgia Straight (August 16-23, 2007, p16). See Hotsheet #1 for our response then. He also makes some statements that look as if they have been lifted directly from the City’s ads placed in the weekend editions of the newspapers over the past couple of weekends, including the spurious claim that compressed days are paid days off. See Hotsheet #2 for our take on that.
Unfortunately, there are some many things to address in this article we’re at almost at a loss as to what to speak to first. Nevertheless, we shall try. In addition to several other ridiculously inaccurate assessments of the labour dispute and working conditions, what Mr. Mason fails to understand is that from CUPE 391’s perspective this labor dispute is not and has never been about politics. Moreover, we would never, ever “sacrifice” any members for political gain. This strike is about dealing with our issues and getting a fair collective agreement.
Further, like any businesses, organization, or individual, unions also have the right to make donations to municipal political parties that they feel will support their values. However, again, this does not mean that this labor dispute is political. This dispute is driven specifically by city leaders and management who are not willing to deal with our key local issues in any fair way.
The only ones who have been trying to make this a political issue are the City of Vancouver who seem to think that the public will be swayed by their propaganda and several politicians who, rather than show their leadership by demanding that City Management find a way to settle the strike, seem to think they can gain political points with prospective Vancouver voters by using a incredibly unfortunate situation to their advantage.
From the very beginning the union made a conscious choice to tell the public the truth. Our issues and proposals are well justified and do not need any spin or questionable tactics for the public to understand or support our position. It is not our fault that the public has seen through the Employer’s tactics and are aware of the indefensible position they have taken.
If indeed Mr. Mason is correct in asserting that the union is “winning the PR battle in this strike,” then the Greater Vancouver Regional Labour Relations Bureau and the City of Vancouver should fire the Wilcox Group and demand their money back!!
The current issue of The Georgia Straight includes a feature article on the library situation (“Boss and union tell different tales” – The Georgia Straight, August 30-September 6, 2007, p16). The article quotes Paul Whitney, Alex Youngberg and Todd Wong prominently. In the article, Paul Whitney claims that the Union has asked for an excess of 40% in wage and benefit increases over a 5-year term. We are not sure of how Mr. Whitney came to this calculation, but his error was swiftly corrected by Alex Youngberg.
On the good news front …
Yesterday morning, the CBC read a letter from our own Kim McCarthy on air, and Kim has kindly given us permission to reprint the text of what she wrote here. Kim wrote her letter in response to Mayor Sam Sullivan’s appearance on Tuesday’s broadcast of Morning Edition with Rick Cluff:
“I welcome Mayor Sam Sullivan’s involvement in the Civic dispute at long last, although I would like to point out that in his interview, the Mayor, like other City officials, has omitted pertinent details regarding the City workers’ issues and offers made to them.
First of all, in Tuesday’s interview, Mayor Sullivan did not make a distinction between the three locals, all of whom have their own issues which need addressing. He simply said that the deal offered to CUPE was exactly the same as that offered to North Vancouver. Host, Rick Cluff, later clarified that the offer Sullivan was referring to applied only to CUPE 15. How “exactly the same” this offer is may be open to dispute. City negotiators also announced recently that the last offer made to CUPE 391 was “equal” to the 17.5% Burnaby offer. However, that offer falls short of Burnaby’s contract in that pay raise increments were to be staggered over the course of a year, for instance instead of a 3 % raise for the whole year, the library workers would receive 2% in January, and an additional 1% in September.
Needless to say, the staggered increments mean fewer dollars in our pockets at the end of the five year contract while the City saves at our expense. More importantly, the City’s offer did not address the library’s issue of “pay equity”, meaning equal pay for equal work regardless of gender.
It is incredible to me that in the 21st century we are still battling for pay equity for the library’s predominantly female work-force. Our local is only asking that we begin to address this issue by putting in place a framework from which to examine library positions and to compare them to similar positions in other municipal sectors. Burnaby’s contract has included an intention to begin the process to address pay equity in this round of negotiations. At the library, this humans rights issue is long overdue!”
Just a small note that in the Employer’s last proposal, pay increments are staggered as follows:
3% on Jan. 1, 2007; 2% on Jan. 1, 2008 AND 1% on Sept. 1, 2008; 3.5% on Jan. 1, 2009; 4% on Apr. 1, 2010; and 4% on Apr. 1, 2011
Again, it is important to note that in every other collective agreement settled to date, the pay increases have commenced on January 1st of each year.