This organizing drive began in 1997, when the Regional Health Authority wanted to transfer CUPE dietary members from the unionized Vegreville Long Term Care Centre to the non-unionized Catholic acute care hospital next door. While negotiating voluntary recognition and the transfer with the Health Region and St. Joseph’s, CUPE representative Roxanne Wells started an organizing drive at St. Joseph’s.
After six months of trying to get St. Josephs management to agree to the transfer, the Health Authority gave up. The organizing drive also failed due to the hospitals openly anti-union stance.
But this year things changed. The Health Authority insisted that St. Joseph accept not only dietary but also laundry staff, all of them CUPE members. During negotiations for voluntary recognition for the transferred employees, a second organizing drive was initiated. The 15 CUPE members working at St. Josephs can be credited with the success of the organizing drive. Seeing employees getting more hours and being treated with respect finally convinced the staff at St. Josephs that CUPE membership was a good deal.
All of the employees, including the 15 originally transferred to St. Josephs are now covered by the new certification. As well, everyone at St. Joseph’s is now covered by the existing CUPE 2410 collective agreement.
Among the 46 new members are child care workers, believed to be the first in the province covered by a hospital agreement. The hospital runs a day care centre that is open to the public. Underpaid in the past, CUPE is now negotiating a new wage scale for these child care members.