The campaign is called “Fairness for civic workers and includes an action website – www.fairnessforcivicworkers.ca – with information, resources and action centre. The public is encouraged to help promote fairness by visiting the online action centre where they can send a letter to all municipal politicians in their community. They can also sign up by e-mail to stay tuned for upcoming actions, events and developments in the campaign.!”
“This round of bargaining was supposed to be easy,” says Anne Coupland, CUPE Municipal Coordinator and National Representative. “Times are good, communities are booming, but it looks like someone wants to play games with the workers that provide the region’s vital civic services.”
Most civic workers have been working without a contract since December 2006. In a centralized fashion, the GVRD Labour Relations Bureau negotiates on behalf of many of the region’s civic employers. Talks have stalled in most places as GVRD bargainers refuse to make meaningful progress.
Last week, in a letter to GVRD Labour Relations Bureau politicians (copied to Mayors throughout the region) CUPE civic workers explained that they feel like they are being pushed into job action in order to get a fair contract.
In Vancouver, civic workers are facing unheard of concessions. GVRD bargainers are proposing a wage freeze for some of the city’s lowest paid inside workers, reductions in bargaining unit member rights, reductions in sick leave, vacation, banked time, and the list goes on. This is in addition to demands for a 39-month contract, special management rights to accommodate the Olympics and ongoing contracting-out of work.
In Delta, the GVRD has refused to continue bargaining and instead is forcing the Local into mediation. In other communities, such as North Vancouver, Burnaby and White Rock, GVRD bargainers are pursuing similar reductions in a range of areas including benefits, callout, sick leave and more.
Lower Mainland municipal workers have common goals, which are reflected at their bargaining tables. They are seeking to address the common challenge of recruitment and retention, the rising cost of living making it hard for workers to live in the communities they serve, and the need to extend benefits to retirees. Included with this, is the need to address the fact that women workers in municipalities – often “inside” workers, clerical staff and library workers – have faced wage discrimination that needs to be corrected through pay equity.
“These are reasonable demands that are supported by the economy as well as by public opinion,” says Coupland. The BC Central Credit union predicts hourly labour income increases of 3.7per cent in 2007 and 3.8 per cent in 2008. When polled in October 2006, Lower Mainland residents told Ipsos-Reid that three-quarters (75 per cent) support a substantial wage increase for civic workers to help them afford to live in the communities they work, deal with training and retention problems, and ensure quality service to residents.
“On average, municipal revenues are increasing by 5 percent a year in the Lower Mainland,” says Coupland. “Civic services and the workers that provide them are a priority. Civic workers are the expert planners, plumbing and building inspectors, pavers and cleaners, among other professions, that are making the Lower Mainland ready and safe to welcome our international guests at the 2010 Olympics. In that spirit, they ought to be rewarded for their excellence, not demoralized by concessions.”
Lower Mainland municipalities, library and police boards, involved in CUPE’s coordinated bargaining efforts include Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, Langley (City & Township), Maple Ridge, New Westminster, North Vancouver (City, District, Library and Rec Commission), Pitt Meadows and White Rock.
CUPE BC represents over 24,000 municipal workers across British Columbia, with approximately half employed in Lower Mainland communities.
For more information, please visit www.fairnessforcivicworkers.ca
Contacts: Anne Coupland, CUPE National representative, 604.291.1940; Jim Gorman, CUPE National representative, 778.836.6100; Diane Kalen, Communications representative, 778.229.0258
Community-specific contacts can be found at: www.fairnessforcivicworkers.ca/contacts