Jordana FeistCUPE Research

More than three-quarters of CUPE members have access to some level of workplace benefits like extended health, dental or vision coverage, but 22 per cent of our members still don’t have any plan at all. The percentage of CUPE members in equality-seeking groups (women, racialized workers, Aboriginal workers, LGBTTI workers, and workers with disabilities) without access is greater than the overall percentage.

excluded from benefitsThat means we have work to do. Accessible, employer-paid workplace benefit plans help reduce inequality, both on the job and off. The best place to improve benefit access is at the bargaining table.

Below are some tips to keep in mind as your local prepares for bargaining.

Before bargaining starts, it’s important to recognize who has a voice at your bargaining table and who’s missing. For instance, are women represented at the table? Are workers of colour represented? Are other equality-seeking groups missing? It’s a good idea to seek additional input from those who may be missing.

Evaluate who has access to the plan. If there are groups of workers that don’t have access (part-time or casual workers, for instance) bargain to include them. Members of equality-seeking groups are more likely to be in part-time or casual work, so improving access helps improve workplace equality.

Resist concessions and tiered agreements. One of the most common trends we see at the bargaining table are concessions that affect future members or a group of members that has little or no voice in the bargaining unit. But tiered concessions have a destabilizing effect. They reduce solidarity, the effectiveness of future mobilization efforts, and workplace equality. It may seem like the only choice at the time but it is never the right choice, especially for those who will be cut out of the plan.

Overall we see more small gains than losses in benefit plans across Canada. It’s an area where we can continue to improve, and where we can do our part to reduce inequality in our workplaces.