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After ten months of bargaining, CUPE 454 members at the Delta Museum and Archives, a society that relies solely on grants and donations for operating costs, have a new collective agreement that includes wage increases and benefit improvements. 

The agreement came about in part by the hard work of the bargaining committee and their ability to think on the fly and think critically,” says bargaining committee member and 454 executive member Jordana Kerry. “We really did have an excellent group.”

The settlement includes wage increases of 1.5 per cent effective January 1, 2010 and a 1 per cent effective January 1, 2011. Other provisions include a market adjustment to a grossly undervalued position, recognition in the MOA of a pension plan, vacation improvement, an employee-driven Accumulated Time Off provision, and a benefits plan that shares the cost with the employer for medical, Extended Health Benefits, dental, and Group Life insurance.

We brought our lowest pay rate up significantly,” says Kerry. “It’s a start.”

Kerry says that the employer was willing to look at a Flexible Benefits plan but the bargaining committee rejected the cafeteria-style option in favour of a group insurance plan.

 “This workplace has never had any medical or dental benefits and now we have MSP, Group Life insurance, Extended Health Benefits, and a dental plan – all shared 50/50 with the employer,” says Kerry. “This was a pretty significant leap for us.”

A new provision of the agreement pays workers sick leave during the probationary period. If a worker quits or doesn’t make the probationary period, the money for the sick days is deducted from their final cheque. The provision means that workers can stay home if they’re ill without fear of losing pay.  Kerry notes that that’s especially important in a small organization.

Kerry says it’s important to do your homework and to know what your benefits package is going to cost.  Besides bringing a calculator to bargaining, you need to bring your patience. “Bargaining takes a long time. It’s important that everybody gets time to read and think,” says Kerry.

CUPE 454 has three collective agreements for three different worksites that include the Corporation of Delta, Delta Police and six members at the Delta Museum and Archives. The agreement was ratified by employees last Thursday and is awaiting employer ratification.

I would like to recognize the whole bargaining committee for their contribution,” says CUPE 454 president John Gibson. “They held strong from the start, and though it took time, in the end they achieved what they set out to do.”