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BURNABY - Almost 50 CUPE civic worker representatives from across the Lower Mainland joined CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill to meet face-to-face with the political representatives of the Greater Vancouver Regional District Labour Relations Bureau (“the Bureau”).
The workers wanted to give the politicians responsible for the Bureau an opportunity to avert a region-wide strike, forced on civic workers by the Bureau’s insistence on following a Vancouver and Olympic driven bargaining agenda that includes unheard of takeaways during times of prosperity and the stubborn demand for a 39-month contract.
O’Neill had requested delegate status to speak, but was denied on the absurd grounds that his “subject is not related to a report on the agenda”. When the Bureau representatives arrived and noticed the CUPE crowd, they immediately made a motion to close the meeting.
The workers appealed to the politicians to have their voices heard. In their hands, they held the official civic flags of the municipalities they work for. On the other side of their flags were the words: “JUST BARGAIN!”. In this round of negotiations, the Bureau has employed every tactic in the book – from stalling, mediation with no movement, forced final offer votes, and hiring of a corporate PR group – to avoid actually bargaining.
“We’re on the verge of a general strike….I would think you would be interested in what we have to say,” said Ken Davidson, representative of CUPE 1004, Vancouver outside workers.
Darryl Robison, president of CUPE 454 (Delta public employees) who are today forced to vote on the Bureau’s final offer, also spoke out. “You are elected municipal politicians, I think it’s incumbent upon you to hear what we have to say today to avert a possible strike this week…”
In the end, the politicians walked out, but returned after having agreed to a motion to allow CUPE BC’s president Barry O’Neill speak.
O’Neill outlined that demanding wage roll backs, benefit takeaways and freezing the wages of some of the region’s most vulnerable workers, was “not going to get collective agreements in the Lower Mainland”.
“Fair contracts that respect the work our members do in our communities everyday is what it’s going to take.”
O’Neill hand delivered his letter mailed yesterday to all Lower Mainland mayors and councillors urging them to take action to prevent a region-wide disruption of civic services due to job action.
In a media scrum that followed, reporters interviewed various CUPE local representatives, including CUPE 15 president Paul Faoro, who urged Mayor Sullivan to get out from “behind his negotiators that are demanding wage freezes…” Faoro also demanded the Bureau justify to taxpayers the hiring of high-priced corporate public relations firm, the Wilcox Group.
Lower Mainland municipalities pay the Bureau $2.7 million dollars a year to bargain on behalf of municipalities that comprise the region’s 12,000 CUPE civic workers.
July 5 GVRD meeting video