DELTA – The GVRD’s Labour Relations Bureau has hired the same high-priced corporate communications and strategy consultants, the Wilcox Group, that includes as its client the city of Vancouver as well as a partnership with the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Bid Corporation. The public relations firm, which advertises itself on its website as having a PR division “devoted solely to assisting corporate clients with all their 2010 Olympic and Paralympic endeavours”, has been hired to force the Bureau’s regional bargaining agenda on Lower Mainland civic workers and their communities, says CUPE BC.
The union, which represents the region’s 12,000 civic workers forced into preparing for a region-wide strike, is calling for full disclosure of the amount of taxpayer dollars that are being spent to hire the Wilcox Group.
The PR firm is one of Canada’s largest corporate public relations and strategy firms and has built its reputation in B.C. by working with clients to privatize BC’s health care food and cleaning services and working for Telus and transportation employers during their most recent labour disputes.
“We always suspected the Bureau’s agenda was all about Vancouver and the Olympics and nothing about Delta,” says Darryl Robison, President of CUPE 454, the public employees of Delta. “What is just as troubling is the lengths the Bureau will go to avoid bargaining. Corporate communications consultants cost hundreds of dollars an hour, thousands of dollars a day. That is money that has to be paid by Lower Mainland taxpayers - money that won’t go into providing vital civic services.”
Taxpayers across the region already pay almost $3 million dollars a year into the GVRD Labour Relations Bureau budget. The Bureau is hired to bargain on behalf of municipalities, many of which have opted out of these services, including Surrey, Richmond and Port Coquitlam. The city of Port Moody has applied to relieve itself of the services of the Bureau, but the process is made difficult and takes over two years. In a 2004 city press release, Port Moody management stated their reasons for the request to bargain on their own behalf with their unionized employees was to “bring about improvements about the way we treat our staff” and “about responding to today’s workplace realities and to Port Moody’s needs.”
In an exceptionally unusual move, the Bureau has ordered a final offer vote on their latest offer, which includes a 39-month contract term. Robison says that there is no locally inspired reason why Delta public employees should accept the GVRD Labour Relations Bureau demand for a 39-month contract – a demand the Bureau is trying to impose on all Lower Mainland municipalities, no matter how remote their connection to the Olympics. The unusual term would leave the region’s 12,000 civic workers negotiating their next collective agreement a couple of weeks after the closing ceremonies of the Olympics and precisely when all the bills start rolling in.
The final offer vote will take place next Thursday, July 5th, 2007. Like most contracts throughout the region, Delta’s contract with its municipal employees expired 6 months ago. 9,000 civic workers in the region are in strike ready position as they react to the Vancouver and Olympics driven regional agenda of the Greater Vancouver Labour Relations Bureau that is being imposed on Lower Mainland communities.
Contact: Darryl Robison, CUPE 454 President, (604)690-4564; Barry O’Neill, CUPE BC President, (604)340-6768; Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, (778)229-0258.