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President’s Report – January 2020

Here we are with another January fading, the days are slowly getting longer, and spring is (almost) in the air. I extend to you the happiest wishes for the Chinese Lunar New Year. Gong Hey Fat Choi! Just a brief update from your Union on how things are going from our angle and also to update you on a few items.

We continue working on relationship improvements with the new human resources personnel, and are working well together, disagreeing respectfully, and resolving most issues before they come to a grievance.

A few items of note arose, notably an increase of hours for the EA’s working in positions that are the most challenging for the employer to fill; after our intervention, a number of these positions were posted, rather than to result in a direct reclass for the incumbents, which in some cases were new employees, but unfortunately no permanent staff applied for any of the positions. It is important to note that the Union will not oppose the Employer making an improvement for some members’ hours of work or other aspects of the employment, provided they do not interfere or clash with any other rights in the agreement, and provided that seniority is respected. Some members expressed an opinion that no EA’s should be able to work 35 hours unless all EA’s work 35 hours. As soon as we heard from members in that vein, we heard from even more members who stated they were not at all interested in working anymore hours than they presently work and that 35 hours does not interest them. This shows you the often challenging role the Union Executive finds ourselves, and therefore you can hopefully understand why the Union cannot oppose some part of our membership obtaining an improvement as a matter of principle for some other portion of the membership which may – or may not – want the same changes. The Union is required to represent the collective interests, but also individual interests of our members – and must do so in a manner that is fair, and is not discriminatory, arbitrary or in bad faith. When balancing the interests of a group of employees, the principle of harm is considered – would accepting a particular improvement offered to some employees take away somehow from the other employees? If no, the Local would likely be fined by the Labour Board should we take a position to block such an improvement – and it would likely be viewed as discriminatory and possibly motivated by bad faith.

We continue a lengthy and rather bizarre arbitration for a terminated member. A brother was terminated unjustly and excessively and has now passed away. The Union petitioned the employer on compassionate grounds before his passing to settle the matter and extend to the member the benefit of long term disability only – to give him the dignity he had earned – as he was facing a terminal illness, but to our shock and surprise, the employer refused. It is in decisions like this that the Union finds the most damage to our relationship as they make no sense and appear cruel and unnecessary, especially given the reality that our benefits are now provincially funded from the PEBT and the employer faced no additional financial liability from our offer to settle, but continues paying expensive legal fees to fight us senselessly, motivated by something other than what is just and right. We therefore continue this legal battle on behalf of the member’s estate and believe it will be protracted.

Our Christmas party was a great success, and everyone had a great time, even if the food wasn’t to everyone’s liking. The photo booth was a huge success. My thanks to the Social Committee and all the volunteers.

The new collective agreement is still in the works – due to complexity and the size of the agreement, it has to be proofed by each side and go through multiple set of eyes to assure it is correct down to the last letter as each punctuation could potentially alter the meaning of what is a legally-binding contract impacting over 1100 people plus all the managers and excluded staff who administer it. It is therefore vital that we take the time and implement the new MOA correctly.

Our new(ish) employee Sara Blaney is settling in wonderfully and thank you to all who have made Sara welcome to our Union family.

Our next delegation will see us going to the CUPE BC Annual Convention, this year held in Vancouver. Local 716 will be submitting a resolution for provincial action on behalf our membership.

As always, I remain at your disposal for questions, problems and anything else you may need. Our new website is complete and we welcome feedback on additional functionality the members would desire, if any.

I wish you and your family only the best as we watch the leaves green, days get longer and warmer, and sunshine bless our splendid nation.

In solidarity always,

Ian Hillman
President, CUPE Local 716