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Tentative agreement reached in Abbotsford

CUPE Local 774 and their employer have reached a tentative agreement in the three-week old dispute involving city workers in Abbotsford, B.C.

Ratification votes took place July 13. More information will be available as it becomes available.

Last week, about 200 people attended a rally for the municipal workers of B.C.’s fifth largest city. CUPE National President Paul Moist and CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer Mark Hancock brought strong messages of support to striking members of CUPE Local 774.

Hancock, acknowledging the presence of CUPE Local 339 President (and CUPE BC General Vice-President) Bev LaPointe in the crowd, reminded members of CUPE Local 774 that the Nelson local managed to overcome major obstacles – including a lack of experience with job action – to prevail after a 10-week strike in the summer of 2004.

They held strong, got the collective agreement they wanted and didn’t give up any concessions,” he said. “You can do that, too.”

Moist, drawing on similar disputes across the country, encouraged members not to give up despite waiting 19 months for a contract after 51 meetings with the employer.

We’ll last one day longer than the City of Abbotsford, and the price that they pay will be a fair contract,” he said.

Toronto developmental services staff approve new contract

Toronto developmental service staff, CUPE Local 2191, have approved a new contract that aims to protect quality services and workplace rights.

The new contract mitigates the negative impacts of a proposed plan by Community Living Toronto (CLT) to restructure service delivery. The restructuring plan was tabled by CLT in the form of bargaining proposals intended to gut collective protections for workers to make way for increased “flexibility” in program delivery and staffing.

In early June, CLT ended constructive negotiations and asked for a “no board” report, a process that set the clock ticking to a lockout or strike.

CUPE Local 2191 members showed immense courage in opposing a restructuring plan that would ultimately jeopardize the quality and the consistency of supports offered through the agency,” said Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer and immediate Past-President of CUPE Local 2191. “They were prepared to defend services by defending their workplace rights.”

Provincial underfunding for developmental services has resulted in severe gaps in services, low wages and heavy workloads for staff. An employer study found that the low wages and conditions of work result in high staff turnover rates.

Already the agency has problems retaining experienced workers,” Hahn said. “And many workers already hold down two jobs to make ends meet. CLT has no evidence that increasing support and service flexibility will result in better quality services. Rather, the evidence says when workers are poorly paid and do not have workplace stability, they are more apt to leave the field, ultimately affecting service quality.”

In addition to continuing to oppose CLT changes to services that may result in poorer quality services, CUPE Local 2191 will be working with 6,000 CUPE members in the developmental services sector to diminish the negative impacts of a planned “transformation” of services by the provincial government.

We believe this plan will seriously undermine the agencies’ ability to sustain programs as more funding is siphoned off to purchase services through independent and alternative providers,” Hahn said. “For workers, this will result in increasing job instability and lower wages.”

Tentative deal for 1,000 N.S. continuing care workers

CUPE has reached a tentative agreement with the Nova Scotia provincial government for about 1,000 members employed in long-term and continuing care.

Highlights of the settlement include wage adjustments for licensed practical nurses and journeyman cooks and a defined-benefit pension plan for adult residential centre workers.

The new agreement will also introduce shift and weekend premiums for employees, as well as a commitment to equalize wages for support staff with their counterparts in N.S. hospitals, CUPE National Representative Kelly Murray says.

The agreement should be ratified over the next couple of weeks.

Safety program launched in North Vancouver

Community safety received a big boost this week when CUPE BC’s City Watch program was launched in the City and District of North Vancouver.

A first for the North Shore, City Watch is a partnership between CUPE, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the District of North Vancouver and City of North Vancouver. The community safety program is designed to prevent and reduce crime by encouraging municipal workers to alert police to any suspicious activity they witness while on the job.

We are very honoured to have our members enhance their role in protecting their community through a program like City Watch,” said CUPE Local 389 President Cindy McQueen. “They already serve their community, but this program gives them added training that helps them serve as extra eyes and ears for their neighbours.”

City Watch training includes techniques such as how to identify suspicious activity, report crime and describe a suspect. CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer Mark Hancock said that municipal employees are uniquely positioned to take on the role of watchdogs.

CUPE members work in virtually every corner of our community,” he said. “Many of our members also live in North Vancouver and know the area quite well, which will make this program even more effective. And that will add to the successes we’ve had with City Watch in a number of other B.C. communities.”

Other B.C. municipalities that have implemented the program include Victoria, Burnaby, Kamloops, Ladysmith, Smithers, Quesnel, Chilliwack, Prince George, District of Kent and Township of Langley. In September, City Watch will be launched in Delta.

Eastern Ontario school board starts countdown to strike/lockout

Upper Canada District School Board management has filed documents with the Ministry of Labour to start the countdown to a legal strike or lockout deadline of August 1, 2006.

We offered to meet with the board in August to try and reach a negotiated settlement in conciliation, but they chose to start the countdown to a legal strike or lockout deadline,” said Susan Hanson, President of CUPE Local 5678. “They are still demanding concessions and takeaways, and that’s something our members cannot accept, especially with the impact that would have on the quality of education in our communities.”

Mediation talks have been scheduled for July 31, one day before the legal strike or lockout deadline. CUPE Local 5678 members voted previously in favour of strike action if a negotiated settlement cannot be reached.

We would much rather continue working and our members resent the fact the school board is backing us into a corner,” Hanson said. “We are prepared to strike if necessary, to protect our collective agreement and stop the board’s attack on our working conditions and the students’ learning conditions.”

CUPE represents 1,400 support staff in schools across Eastern Ontario.

Mediator to aid first HEU contract talks with Compass

The British Columbia Labour Relations Board has appointed a mediator to help settle a first contract covering more than 200 Hospital Employees’ Union members employed by Compass Group to provide housekeeping and dietary services in Provincial Health Services Authority facilities.

The appointment comes in response to HEU’s request for mediation, and after members voted 99 per cent in favour of job action earlier this week. The LRB has also instructed the parties to begin negotiating essential services levels.

HEU Secretary-Business Manager Judy Darcy said the union hopes an agreement will be reached shortly now that a mediator is in place.

Compass needs to step up to the plate and settle a solid first collective agreement with our members,” she said. “We have successfully reached contracts with the company’s two main competitors, Sodexho and Aramark, and those agreements are helping to bring stability to the workplace and improve the quality of care to patients. We expect nothing less from Compass.”

Talks with Compass broke down June 22. Little had been accomplished since bargaining began five months ago. The United Kingdom-based corporation’s employees work at the B.C. Cancer Agency, B.C. Children’s and Women’s Hospital and Sunnyhill Hospital for Children.

Livingstone Range labour dispute heats up

Radio listeners in southwest Alberta will get a sample of what classrooms will be like if Livingstone Range school trustees contract out support work.

The CUPE ads are part of an eight-week campaign to avert a strike at the school district. Employees voted 88 per cent to strike because the school district has insisted on the right to contract out positions and make more use of casual employees. The radio and newspaper ads are intended to let parents know what they are in for it if trustees get their way. The radio ad features voices playing the roles of temporary school workers. Some of the statements include “I’m just here for today”, “Isn’t this clean enough?” and “I had no idea he had allergies”.

Parents need to understand what kind of schools trustees are trying to create,” said CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz. “School support staff are critical to our children’s education, but trustees want to treat them casually.”

CUPE raises concerns about privatization of Winnipeg park

The City of Winnipeg’s plans to drop responsibility for Assiniboine Park is irresponsible, says CUPE. On Monday, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that the city “wants to create a new arm’s-length body to govern the entire park.”

While the details of the plan are not yet known, the change will essentially put the park in private hands, warns Gary Swanson, President of CUPE Local 500, which represents municipal workers.

We told the city many times that giving up control of the park was not good for the citizens of Winnipeg,” Swanson said. “The park is a public asset and by keeping it public we can assure that a vibrant resource is kept for everyone in Winnipeg.”

The option of having local non-governmental organizations take over the Park was being considered.

We realize the value of the volunteer groups to the park and their vested interest in aspects of park operation,” Swanson added. “However, once the city loses control of the park, it will lose its public focus. It will be the responsibility of the new board to run the park like a business, not a public asset.”

CUPE represents about 100 workers who have maintained the popular park for decades. “The Park is maintained by a dedicated staff who are committed to providing the public with the best possible service,” Swanson said. “Our members are not the reason the park is declining. They have to deal with cutback after cutback in funding. It’s city council who created this mess in 1998 when they dismantled the former parks and recreation department.”

The union argues that strong civic leadership, a solid single administrative mandate and a financial commitment from the city for the park is what is needed.

Ottawa child care workers facing lockout

The board of directors at Ottawa’s Andrew Fleck child care centre has started the countdown towards a legal lockout, and members of CUPE Local 2204 are looking for support.

Among other things, the board wants to eliminate pregnancy and parental leave benefits and remove the right of laid-off workers to move into a job occupied by a worker with less seniority.

Union negotiators say money isn’t a major issue right now, but the board has said it won’t agree to re-open wage discussions if the centre gets increased government funding.

CUPE is urging supporters to write to Andrew Fleck board members to express their concern.