The union representing workers at the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC) says “the employer’s response to their latest offer is evidence that they are unwilling to bargain fairly, and prefer to put vital refugee services at risk,” said Lee McLeod, Regional Director of CUPE Manitoba.
Prior to the recent MIIC decision to lock out its workers, CUPE 2348 continued to negotiate the specific issues of concern to the employer and made counteroffers that addressed those concerns, only to be told “no”. After the lockout notice was provided, the employer made only a minor adjustment to one of those areas of concern. Proposed as a different vacation benefit for new employees, a two-tier benefit, this adjustment will not affect the employees who would be voting on a new collective agreement.
“The union has made no significant demands of the employers,” said McLeod. ”In fact, we have approached these negotiations with the clear understanding that the MIIC is facing funding challenges, and so have made every attempt to accommodate what the organization needs to continue.”
The outstanding issues involve the employer’s attempt to shift benefit costs, reduce paid time off, including two-tier vacation benefits for their workers, vacation scheduling, recall of laid-off employees, and maternity leave top-up.
“Our members are only asking that the employer back off from concessions that are not necessary. In fact, we have already settled the main issue of wages,” says Nasra Hassan, Interpreter/Advisor at MIIC. “We take pride in our work, providing important services that help refugees and new Canadians adjust to life in their new country. We just want to go to work.”
Over the past year, employees of MIIC have accepted layoffs and reclassified jobs and wages to ensure that the employer remains financially viable. The reclassifications resulted in wage reductions on average of 12.5%, and as high as 27.5%.
“Our members are frustrated and confused by the employer’s refusal to negotiate,” says Scott Clark, national servicing representative for CUPE. “We have made a number of reasonable offers regarding the employer’s key issues and the employer has rejected them over and over. They have instead decided to lock us out.”
The remaining bargaining issues the employer refuses to negotiate will not increase the company’s expenses which include:
- A CUPE proposal to extend employees’ right to recall, given the current economic climate and global pandemic.
- An employer proposal to make it harder for the employees, many of whom are refugees themselves, to travel to their home countries for their vacation.
- An employer proposal to reduce vacation and end wellness days off.
Over the coming days and weeks, CUPE will be expressing our concerns to local and national elected officials and taking other actions that will allow the workers at MIIC to continue to provide the important services that help new Canadians become successful members of our community.