CUPE 23 has welcomed approximately 50 fitness professionals as new City of Burnaby employees after an overwhelming certification vote in favour of joining the union, confirmed by the Labour Relations Board on March 23.

The new CUPE members are mostly instructors of high-intensity or low-intensity fitness and yoga classes who had previously worked for the City on a contract basis. Some time ago, a small group of instructors challenged the employer as they weren’t being paid the six-per-cent in lieu of vacation they were entitled to after five years of service, under the Employment Standards Act. As a result of their appeal, these workers received their retroactive pay for time served.

When the fitness professionals contacted CUPE 23 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the union worked with Parks Director Dave Ellenwood and Mayor Mike Hurley to include these workers in the adjustment agreement reached for all City of Burnaby employees affected by the resulting lay-offs. The agreement made the fitness professionals realize they were being treated better than unorganized workers, so they decided to join CUPE.

“The thing that’s awesome is that all the members are so happy to be part of the union because of the experiences they’ve had outside of the union,” said CUPE 23 President Bruce Campbell. “I can’t wait to negotiate fair wages and good working conditions for these members.”

Although these workers received lay-off notices because of provincial health orders on March 29, added Campbell, CUPE 23 was able to negotiate payment for all scheduled shifts.

The new fitness professionals joining CUPE 23 follow the union’s successful organizing of traffic control (flag workers) and security guards. Campbell acknowledged that having a progressive mayor and council, who have respect for all working people, made a difference in bringing in these new members.

“The City of Burnaby was spending so much on traffic control contractors already, but traffic control was still a problem,” he said. “For both traffic and security, they understood that they’d get better services at lower cost by going in-house.”

CUPE 23 represents more than 2,500 inside and outside workers, foremen, and library employees for the City of Burnaby.