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As you may have heard through FastFacts or by other means, we are engaged in a serious dispute with the IWA-Canada at the Canadian Labour Congress over the activities of their Local 1-3567 who have inked voluntary agreements with multinational corporations for contracted out BC health care work.

In January 2002, the Gordon Campbell government introduced Bill 29 which removed health care workers successor rights, their collective agreements prohibitions against contracting out, as well as severely limiting employee layoff bumping rights.

Their actions paved the way to contract out major portions of BCs health care support staff work work performed by CUPE/HEU members. The BC labour movement and the CLC anticipated plans by private multinational corporations to approach unions to sign voluntary recognition agreements through which significant wage/benefit concessions would be imposed.

Both the BC Federation of Labour and the CLC adopted policies to dissuade affiliate unions from entering into such voluntary agreements which would undermine existing health care unions efforts to follow their work (even if it was contracted out).

By early 2003 it was clear that the IWA-Canada had signed voluntary (or so-called Partnership) agreements with at least three multinational corporations Compass from the UK, Sodexho from France and Aramark from the U.S.

These agreements were signed between the IWA-Canada Local 1-3567 and these companies. The agreements were entered into prior to any contract awards, or any employees being hired and lower wages by almost 50% from $16/$17 per hour to $9/$10 per hour.

We immediately filed complaints at the CLC arguing that these voluntary agreements both set back womens wages over 20 years and ignored CUPE/HEUs relationship to this work (in our view a clear violation of the CLC Constitution).

By the summer of this year our complaints remained unresolved and the CLC appointed an impartial umpire to hear our complaints.

On September 18, 2003, Umpire Vic Pathe issued an award finding that the IWAs entering into partnership agreements with corporations constituted a violation of Section 4 of the CLC Constitution. He ruled that the HEU had an established relationship to the work contracted out and should have a 12-month period to maintain the work in question.

Subsequent to this ruling, the IWA-Canada Local 1-3567 continued to sign a new partnership agreement with a fourth corporation, and to ignore a CLC request for their written intention to comply with the CLC Constitution by October 2, 2003.

On October 21, 2003, the IWA-Canada wrote the CLC indicating their decision to stop signing further partnership agreements. This position was not acceptable to us. Compliance in our view meant (and means) that in light of the Umpires ruling, the IWA had to withdraw from all partnership agreements.

It became clear to us that the CLC did not agree with our interpretation. This matter made its way onto our convention floor where an Emergency Resolution was debated and unanimously adopted. This resolution reads, in part, as follows:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this Convention demand that the Canadian Labour Congress Executive Committee to direct the IWA-Canada to withdraw from all certification applications and partnership agreements; and to cease and desist from this action in the future; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the event that the IWA-Canada does not immediately comply with this direction, that the CLC Executive Committee be called upon to immediately impose full sanctions available to them under Article IV Section 15 of the CLC Constitution; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the absence of these actions, this Convention authorize the National Executive Board to take action up to and including withholding CLC per capita until the situation is resolved to the satisfaction of the National Executive Board; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that CUPE continue to organize support in the broader labour movement for a labour movement-wide strategy to stop privatization which includes supporting our efforts to continue to represent members after services have been contracted out; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that CUPE National regularly update all CUPE locals, divisions and councils regarding the status of our complaints at the CLC and actions being taken to address them.

On November 3, 2003, I attended the CLC Executive Committee Meeting and introduced the following resolution:

CLC Executive Committee to impose 3rd level sanctions on the IWA-Canada until such time as they:

  1. Withdraw all certification applications for former HEU work before the BC Labour Relations Board;

  2. Cease and desist from signing further agreements related to HEU work;

  3. Withdraw from Health Care Partnership Agreements with the four multinational corporations;

  4. Withdraw from the raid application at the Renfrew Long Term Care Facility (BC October 27, 2003); and

  5. The IWA-Canada complies with the CLC Constitution to the satisfaction of the CLC Executive Committee.

This item was tabled until November 14, 2003 to allow the CLC the opportunity to convene a meeting between the parties to the dispute. A meeting was held on November 13th and did not resolve the differences.

The CLC Executive Committee met via conference call and on November 14th and CUPEs motion was defeated. A subsequent motion (which I did not support) was adopted. It reads as follows:

  1. The IWA-Canada shall cease and desist from further voluntary agreements related to Bill 29 in British Columbia;

  2. The IWA-Canada shall freeze its presence in health care to the four voluntary agreements it has signed;

  • The IWA-Canada shall be restricted within these 4 voluntary agreements to contracts already let and awarded;

  • The CLC will continue to work on the outstanding issues between CUPE and the IWA such as competing certifications at the BC Labour Board and the two allegations of raiding between the affiliates;

  • CUPE/HEU will cease and desist from comments etc. that bring an affiliate (IWA) into disrepute;

  • The (CLC) President is to continue holding discussions with the two parties in order to resolve outstanding issues and report back to the Executive Committee as necessary.

    This matter remains unresolved. We have spent considerable time talking to affiliate unions, and a number of provincial federations of labour and labour councils have adopted resolutions supportive of CUPEs case.

    No CLC affiliate can fight right-wing governments, private corporations and another CLC affiliate all at the same time.

    We believe what the IWA Local 1-3567 did was wrong. Their actions have devalued health care workers (mainly womens) work. Their actions are in direct violation of the CLC Constitution.

    For CUPE/HEU to be made whole, the IWA must walk away from the voluntary partnership agreements that they have entered into. We will continue to seek this remedy through all available means and our NEB will continue to manage this issue in accordance with our National Convention resolution.

    This is a significant dispute, and I urge each of you to discuss it with colleagues in other unions. Our labour movement as a whole will never grow and prosper if one affiliate union undermines the interests and well being of another affiliate, such as has occurred here.