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CUPE and HEU members hold joint bargaining conference

More than 100 HEU and CUPE members began preparations for the next round of bargaining in the community social services sectors at a joint conference held December 5-7 in Richmond. Many collective agreements in this sector - which includes group homes, vocational and residential training centres, women’s shelters and other community social services - expire on March 31, 2003.

Over the three days, members discussed critical issues that have emerged in the sector as a result of massive funding cutbacks, impending structural change, and the passage of Bill 29 on January 28 of last year. That legislation wiped out many of the hard-won gains that had been achieved in the last round of bargaining including job security, wage parity with community health workers and successorship rights. Delegates brainstormed strategies to address those challenges and agreed to organize “anniversary” events to publicly mark Bill 29’s passage. Participants will follow-up at the local level to plan and carry out actions in January and beyond.

Although it’s not yet known how bargaining will proceed and whether the employer will negotiate at one common table, participants agreed that it will be critical to work together across the sector, to educate the public about what’s happening to community social services, and to undertake actions that involve our members and the community.

Delegates also identified their top bargaining priorities, which include: no concessions, regaining job security and successorship rights, wage parity, a pension plan, and workload issues. They agreed to conduct a bargaining survey of their union membership in late January/early February.

HEU elects bargaining committee

HEU delegates elected a top-notch bargaining committee, which includes Marilyn Rust (Western Human Resources, Victoria), Josephine Querand (Kardel), Louella Vincent (Western Human Resources, Vancouver) and Jan Mitchell (Victoria Association for Community Living). Alternates are: Paul Huxtable, Barb Mcdonnell, Cheryl McLachlin and Gayle Thomas. Sister Barb Burke was also appointed from the provincial bargaining committee.

Community social services restructuring

CUPE’s legislative co-ordinator Bill Harper outlined government’s restructuring plan for community social services, which he said will cut funding and hand over responsibility for the delivery of community social services to a new centralized authority, which is supposed to operate at arms length from the government. He told delegates that the changes, expected to be introduced through new legislation in the spring, will end government’s role as a direct provider of community living services. Copies of Harper’s summary will be available at www.cupe.bc.ca under Sector Updates/Community Social Services/”Radical Restructuring of Community Social Services” or through the CUPE regional office in Burnaby.

Legal challenge update

Star Rosenthal from HEU’s legal department provided delegates with an update on the lawsuit filed seven months ago by CUPE, HEU, BCGEU and HSA, which seeks to have Bill 29 deemed unconstitutional. She said the case could take years to go through the courts because when the government loses, it will appeal. She said we can anticipate that the case will eventually end up being heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. The court is being asked to strike down the bill as it violates freedom of association and equality rights guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Government has filed its statement of defence, but at the time of this newsletter a court date had not yet been set. Rosenthal explained that Bill 29 also ripped up contracts in the health sector and that HEU and other unions have filed an additional legal challenge against those parts of Bill 29 affecting health care workers. That case will be heard April 14-29, 2003.

More information

This newsletter provides only a brief overview of the recent joint bargaining conference organized by HEU and CUPE for members in community social services. For more information contact: Marilyn Rust at 250-383-2602; or Juli Rees at: 1-800-663-5813 or directly at 604-456-7101.