TORONTO, ON. – The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing over 500 long-term care workers at former Royal Crest nursing homes and retirement homes, has won back collective agreement rights, wage increases, benefits and pension plan contributions and entitlements for workers who lost their collective agreement and workplace rights when the homes were transferred to a Trustee following bankruptcy in 2002. The court approved the multi-million dollar settlement on June 10, 2005.
“For years we have been fighting in the courts to win back workplace rights and protection for this predominantly female workforce ever since the former owners went into bankruptcy,” said Jim Flynn, CUPE national representative and long-term care coordinator. “This is a major victory for the workers that will bring these workers’ wages in line with other privately-owned homes in Ontario, now and for the foreseeable future.” Future wage increases will also be tied to CUPE’s negotiated settlements with Extendicare homes, another chain of homes where CUPE has contracts with eight nursing and retirement homes.
CUPE represents health care aides, RPNs, cooks, housekeeping and laundry staff at the following homes, formerly part of the Royal Crest chain: Marnwood Lifecare Centre (CUPE Locals 2225.06.12), Strathaven Lifecare Centre (CUPE Local 2225.05), Brantwood Lifecare Group Inc. (CUPE Local 1712), Stoney Creek Lifecare Centre (CUPE Local 1712) and St. Olga’s Lifecare Centre (CUPE Local 3009), all in the Hamilton and Bowmanville areas of Southern Ontario.
“I am proud of what CUPE was able to accomplish for these mostly women workers, since they lost their collective agreement and workplace rights in 2002,” said Alison Davidson, CUPE national representative in the CUPE Oshawa office. “These workers now have a brighter future, thanks to the pension plan contributions we managed to have reinstated, as well as CUPE’s central pay equity plan that will now also apply to these workers.” CUPE did not collect any union dues from the former Royal Crest workers while they were without a collective agreement, but continued to represent the members and fight for their rights.
Among other things, CUPE negotiated major wage increases for its members including the full retroactive payment of outstanding pay equity claims; improvements in benefits language; the reinstatement of members’ unionized conditions of work with an independent grievance arbitration to resolve disputes; and the payment of millions of dollars in pension payments that will ensure members are placed in the same position they would have been if the bankruptcy had not occurred.
“CUPE continued to defend these workers when the courts said they had lost their collective agreement rights,” said Flynn. “This struggle demonstrates the power of solidarity and what you can accomplish with Canada’s largest union defending your rights.”
For further information, please contact:
CUPE national rep. & LTC coordinator
CUPE national rep., Oshawa Office
CUPE legal counsel, Ontario Region
Outline of court proceedings:
Owing over $100 million to its creditors, Royal Crest was declared bankrupt in 2002 and a Trustee in bankruptcy was appointed by the Court In the fall of 2002, CUPE (with the SEIU) objected to an order declaring the Trustee not to be a successor employer and applied to the Court for leave to apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for a declaration that the collective agreements were not terminated upon the bankruptcy and that the Trustee was a successor employer to Royal Crest. The Court dismissed the application saying that a “collective agreement is not terminated but rather it is put into suspended animation, to be revived if, as, and when a purchaser with a personal economic interest in the operation of the business acquires the business.” The Trustee in bankruptcy was free to ignore all the terms and conditions of its collective agreement as a result of this decision.
CUPE appealed that decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal which upheld the lower Court decision and the Supreme Court of Canada refused to grant leave to hear an appeal of that decision. However, in the original decision the lower Court had allowed CUPE to re-apply to it for the same orders. In the fall of 2004, we began the process of re-applying to the Court for leave to apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for a declaration that the collective agreements were not terminated upon bankruptcy and that the Trustee was indeed a successor employer to Royal Crest. In the midst of that application the Trustee and the various trade unions negotiated a settlement agreement that will provide a number of major improvements for the workers. The Court is scheduled to sign its final order approving the settlement Monday, June 20, 2005.