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Saskatchewan Tribunal supports pay equity complaints

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal has sided with a group of CUPE university clerical workers and ordered the province’s Human Rights Commission to investigate pay equity complaints.

In nine separate rulings issued in July, the Tribunal overruled the Commission’s decision last year to dismiss a large number of pay equity complaints from CUPE members employed in clerical jobs at the University of Saskatchewan.

The significance of the Tribunal’s rulings cannot be overstated,” said Aina Kagis, chair of the province’s pay equity coalition and a CUPE staff representative in Regina. “Pay discrimination continues to be the workday reality for many Saskatchewan women, and the human rights route is often the only avenue they have to address it.”

Since Saskatchewan is one of the few remaining provinces without pay equity legislation, hundreds of workers have filed wage discrimination complaints under the Code over the last decade.

But last year, Chief Commissioner Donna Scott dismissed more than 100 complaints filed by CUPE members employed in group homes and at the university, stating the Human Rights Code contained no provision to evaluate widely different jobs.

Ten university clerical workers and 39 group home workers appealed that decision to the Tribunal.

In her July rulings, Tribunal Chair Karen Prisciak rejected the Chief Commissioner’s arguments and ordered hearings into nine of the complaints, stating the Code required a “more expansive interpretation.”

Human rights legislation has the status of ‘fundamental law’ and must be interpreted liberally to fulfill its objectives,” she wrote.

Most of the clerical workers affected by the rulings have decided not to pursue their complaints because their recent collective agreement addressed some of their pay equity concerns.

The 39 CUPE group home workers are waiting for the Tribunal’s decisions on their appeals.

CUPE Saskatchewan President Tom Graham said women should not have to file individual complaints and wait years to achieve pay equity.

This is a basic human right,” he said. “We need government action on this issue.”

Although CUPE represents more women than any other union in the province, the majority of the union’s 25,000 members working in Saskatchewan schools, libraries, municipalities and community-based agencies are not covered by the government’s pay equity policy.

For the past 10 years, both CUPE and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission have been calling on the provincial government to implement pay equity legislation and establish a separate pay equity commission.

CUPE mourns the loss of Tom O’Leary

CUPE is mourning the loss of one of its most formidable leaders. Tom O’Leary, a past president of CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador, died earlier this week in a St. John’s hospital. He was 67.

O’Leary rose through the ranks of the union to become a member of CUPE’s National Executive Board where he served for 12 years. He was also the president of CUPE Newfoundland from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s and the president of his local, CUPE 569 (St. John’s outside workers), for more than two decades.

This is a huge loss for the CUPE family,” said CUPE Newfoundland President Wayne Lucas. “Tom provided virtually a lifetime of dedication to the cause of working men and women. That kind of leadership doesn’t come around very often. He was a fiery, outspoken defender of worker’s rights and he was not afraid to take a stand on issues. He embraced the ideals of the labour movement as a very young man and never lost sight of them.”

Tom O’Leary will be remembered in CUPE for his years of dedication and service to CUPE members and to all working people in Newfoundland and Labrador,” added CUPE National President Paul Moist.

He was also known for his wicked sense of humour and his passionate, rousing speeches at conventions, rallies and on the picket line. On behalf of CUPE’s 550,000 members across the country, our hearts go out to his family and friends who are mourning his loss today. We know he will be sadly missed.”

Lucas and several current and past CUPE leaders attended O’Leary’s funeral on August 11 in Manuels, Newfoundland, his hometown. They included National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux, former CUPE National President Jeff Rose and former CUPE Newfoundland President Larry Power.

North Vancouver city workers help win prestigious award

Municipal workers for the City of North Vancouver recently shared in a national award from the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators.

The city was presented with a 2006 CAMA Award of Excellence for Municipal Workplace Literary Achievements.

In the category of “Development of Effective and Successful Partnerships,” the city and its partners, CUPE 389 and Capilano College, were commended for establishing learning programs for employees and delivering outstanding contributions to workplace education and literacy. This was the second such award for CUPE 389.

It’s an honour to be recognized this way for a second time,” said CUPE 389 President Cindy McQueen. “It’s a testament to the commitment of both the city and our members to work together to provide the best possible service for our community.”

Nova Scotia highway workers say layoffs will lead to higher repair costs

CUPE 1867 President Gareth Drinnan says the early layoffs of seasonal employees in Beechville, Nova Scotia, will result in less basic maintenance being done, leading to costlier repairs.

The Transportation and Public Works Department is laying off five of its 20 CUPE members at the Beechville depot effective August 11.

If the regular maintenance is not done, there will only be more problems that are costlier to fix next year,” Drinnan said. “If you put off fixing your roof when it has a small leak, by the next year you have to replace the entire thing.”

Drinnan also expressed concern about the safety of the roads when regular maintenance work is put off because of budgetary concerns which do not take into account extra costs due to weather damage.

CUPE 1867 represents 1,400 highway workers in Nova Scotia.

Victoria United Way and CUPE reach agreement

United Way of Greater Victoria and its CUPE staff have reached a forward-looking tentative collective agreement that provides for wage increases and a cost of living allowance in the event of inflation.

What is most forward looking about this agreement is the up to 0.5 per cent cost of living allowance provided in the event of steep inflation and the considerable increase from 11 to 15 per cent of wages for casual staff in lieu of benefits,” said John Burrows, President of CUPE 50.

CUPE locals and staff in British Columbia are major United Way supporters.

Not only does this organization do excellent work in the community, it practices the same kind of social responsibility in dealing with staff,” Burrows added.

Both sides are recommending ratification of the agreement.

Strike averted in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu

Outside workers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, reached an 11th-hour agreement with their employer that averted a strike set to start Monday, August 7.

The workers voted 98 per cent in favour of the agreement. Among other things, the city has agreed to reinstate CUPE 3055 President Marco Raymond, who was fired on June 15 in a dispute over job assignments at the municipal garage. Instead, Raymond is being suspended until December 11, 2006, during which time he will continue to be president.

I now get to keep my job and pursue my union functions,” Raymond said. “In this light, there was no longer a need to strike. This is better for the workers and the citizens. We accepted the six-month suspension because my hearing was scheduled for December. After analyzing the situation, we concluded that it was highly likely that the arbitrator was going to reverse my termination and convert the period in which I was out of work into a suspension. Since the end result would be the same regardless, we figured it was preferable to avoid job action.”

The two parties also agreed to resume bargaining on September 15. Both the employer and union bargaining committees will receive training from the provincial labour ministry to ensure that discussions are productive.

The union and the city say they hope this agreement will allow them to turn the page in their turbulent history and that it will lead to a more constructive relationship.

Workers at Sunshine Coast seniors’ facility vote to join HEU

Health care workers at the Good Samaritan Society’s Christenson Village, a seniors’ residential facility in Gibsons, British Columbia, became members of the Hospital Employees’ Union after voting in favour of joining the union on August 4.

The 117 new members include licensed practical nurses, care aide, an occupational therapist, maintenance, clerical and laundry staff, housekeepers and food services workers.

Acting Secretary-Business Manager Zorica Bosancic noted that the Good Samaritan employees reflect the growing number of health care staff working for private companies or not-for-profit organizations that are joining HEU.

We are pleased that the Christenson Village workers are part of our union and look forward to meeting with them soon to discuss their workplace concerns and to have them elect a bargaining committee,” Bosancic said.

The bargaining committee will help develop proposals based on the employees’ concerns and then take the proposals into negotiations with the employer for a first collective agreement.

The not-for-profit Good Samaritan Society owns and operates 16 seniors’ facilities in Canada, mostly in Alberta. Christenson Village is a 140-bed seniors’ residential complex that provides assisted living and multi-level care beds.