The union representing 560 workers for Skytrain says it made a proposal last year to management that could have saved at least one job in administration, but Translink eliminated the position and is cutting four more jobs in the IT department while deciding to spend $1.5 million for a five-year contract to provide coffee to office staff.
Under the taxpayer-funded deal with wholesale coffee distributor Canterbury, TransLink will fund about 300,000 free cups of coffee for head office staff. The contract was revealed in an April 21 media report after a Vancouver newspaper obtained a request for proposals for a three-to-five year contract, posted on the BC Bid website.
CUPE 7000 says the coffee deal undermines Translink’s credibility on fiscal responsibility. “This practice has been going on for a year now at SkyTrain,” says CUPE 7000 president Bill Magri, referring to the provision of coffee for all office staff, union and exempt. “Local 7000 has been faced with layoffs at SkyTrain and the travelling public has been inconvenienced by having less service in the evenings and on weekends. We told the employer last year to keep the coffee and give us back the jobs. Then they turn around and do this. Absolutely shameful.”
Magri says the coffee deal leaves a bitter aftertaste not only for CUPE 7000 members but also for CUPE 4500, CAW and COPE members who have also suffered layoffs at Skytrain and the Coast Mountain Bus Company.
“At BC Rapid Transit facilities, the cost of the coffee is about $600 a week, and the BCRT had to buy a fridge for the coffee creamers in one department,” says Magri. “Meanwhile, we’ve lost members in the IT department and other workers have been forced to retire or have been laid off. They are not on any coffee break, and their jobs are gone. This is totally hypocritical on Translink’s part.”
Added CUPE 4500 president Rob Woods: “It is insulting, when the employer is cutting jobs and lowering services due to a stated need to lower costs and be more financially responsible, that they continue to slap us in the face with things like this.”