CUPE members continue to make gains at the bargaining table with average wage increases across the country between 2% to 3% per year in 2-year agreements. Coordinated bargaining in many sectors is strengthening our position at the bargaining table. But, the fight to hang on to strong contracting out language has made many sets of negotiations both difficult and lengthy.
All CUPE sectors in Newfoundland and Labrador are involved in talks with other public sector unions in the province in order to move towards a process of coordinated bargaining.
After the successful negotiation of a collective agreement for all hospital workers in Nova Scotia that saw members achieve parity throughout the sector with a strategy of provincial bargaining, the newly-elected Tory government is considering dismantling the regional health authorities and going back to a local structure. All locals are preparing for a battle to keep their provincial bargaining structure.
In Quebec, The Common Fronts planned one-day general strikes have not materialized because other unions have backed away, but CUPE members are taking militant action. CUPE public sector workers have voted 81% in favour of strike action in the face-off with the Bouchard government which refuses to negotiate decent wage increases after 10 years of wage freezes and rollbacks. The 20,000 CUPE members covered by these negotiations are staging a series of rotating one-day strikes to mount pressure on the government. The first action was taken by the 1,000 members of Local 2105 on November 23 at the Cit 0064e la Sant 0068ospital in Laval. Within hours of their job action, the government put forward the first global offer to Common Front members. Pressure on the government continued to escalate as six CUPE locals took job action the following week. On December 9, 125 locals will walk off the job.
Bargaining in the municipal sector in Quebec remains very difficult. With provincial government restructuring of municipalities on the horizon, many employers are trying to impose concessions and turn back the clock on contract protections.
In Ontario, Local 416 negotiated a new collective agreement for the 7,000 outside workers in the new City of Toronto, combining 11 collective agreements into one. The negotiations went to the brink of a strike but the new agreement includes a clause that imposes financial penalties on the City if they contract out CUPE jobs. The members won wage gains of 7.4 per cent, a signing bonus and an additional wage increase of 6.5 per cent for 700 ambulance paramedics.
Local 79, representing 20,000 inside workers at the City of Toronto, is currently in the midst of negotiations. With a strike mandate of 97%, the local and the City are still apart on many issues but the process is continuing with two government-appointed conciliation officers.
CUPE long-term care workers in Ontario formed a new provincial bargaining council in September in a push to move toward coordinated bargaining in the sector. Their task is now to move employers and the provincial government to a central table.
In Manitoba, community health care workers in Local 2348 at the Mount Carmel Clinic have voted 96% in favour of strike action in their battle to win parity with the acute care sector in the current round of negotiations. Strike votes are contemplated at other clinics in order to step up the pressure.
In the middle of negotiations between Local 500 and the City of Winnipeg, the Chamber of Commerce has issued a report calling for wage cuts and an end to the strong job security provisions. Meanwhile, Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray told CUPE municipal workers at our National Convention that civic employees are the reason that Canada has the most cost-effective municipalities in the world, and also the reason we have the best services. Apparently, the Chamber is more interested in a tax cut for business than in services.
Education workers in Saskatchewan are starting the process of moving toward provincial bargaining. A bargaining conference held November 19-21 in Saskatoon will be followed by a lobbying campaign for provincial bargaining.
A new collective agreement for CUPE members at the Calgary Regional Health Authority lays the groundwork for wage increases in the rest of the sector. The two-year agreement for Local 182 gives a wage increase ranging from 3% to 18% in the first year and 3% in the second year, marking the beginning of fair compensation after a 5% rollback in 1994.
In British Columbia, efforts to bargain centrally in the school board sector have been thwarted by the employers association and the failure of the provincial government to pass enabling legislation. Bargaining in the K to 12 sector has been taking place board by board with locals putting forward a common CUPE position. Several strike votes have taken place since employers who dont want to negotiate centrally have adopted a common approach i.e. to stonewall bargaining with the backing of the British Columbia Public School Employers Association.
Similarly, in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GRVD), only 9 of the 12 municipalities have agreed to bargain jointly. Eighteen CUPE locals, representing 13,000 members, have joined together in a Bargaining 2000 coalition with the slogan “Bargaining 2000 Common Table, Common Cent$”. They have prepared a common position and a proposal for central bargaining that would lower bargaining costs and provide for a better labour relations environment for all municipalities in the Greater Vancouver area.
CUPE members in the BC university sector are putting heat on their employers through a series of “Days of Action”. The employers are refusing to negotiate an accord with the workers and government on key issues like pay equity, benefits and pensions as has been done in other sectors. Five Days of Action have taken place since September resulting in blocking access to several university campuses. On October 14, CUPE members and allies staged a huge rally outside the legislature in Victoria.