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CUPE takes supervisory battle to the next step

2016 Release

CUPE has filed a notice of constitutional question in the cases of three employers who are attempting to unilaterally remove unionized supervisors out of the bargaining unit of their choosing.

The City of Moose Jaw, the Saskatoon Public Library, and Cypress Hills Abilities Centre are some of the first employers in the province to use new provisions under The Saskatchewan Employee Act (SEA) which allow employers to try to remove workers with supervisory duties from the bargaining unit.

A fourth employer, the Regina Public Library, has applied to have similar employees removed from the bargaining unit claiming that they are managers.

“Working people have the right to belong to the union of their choosing. CUPE will fight any employer who moves forward with attempting to exclude supervisory members with every tool in our tool box, including legal avenues,” said Tom Graham, president of CUPE Saskatchewan. “Filing a notice of constitutional question is the first step in what could be a very lengthy and expensive legal battle.”

CUPE has serious concerns about the constitutionality of this legislation, as well as the impact the legislation is having on workers.

“This legislative change is causing a lot of stress and uncertainty for union members who have supervisory duties. People are worried about their job security. They are worried about what will happen to their benefits and wages if they get removed from their bargaining unit. They are worried about what their future holds,” added Graham.

CUPE believes that removing supervisors from the bargaining unit is completely unnecessary. Many major employers in the province have already signed irrevocable agreements to keep the status quo arrangement, including the Ministry of Health, SAHO, and the Government of Saskatchewan.

“Saskatchewan is now the only jurisdiction in Canada with this type of legislation. And I can see why,” said Graham. “This legislation is a solution in search of a problem. In my 37 years with CUPE, we have never had a problem with supervisors being in the same bargaining unit as the people they supervise that was not solved through application of the collective agreement.

“It is in both the union and the employer’s interests to maintain the integrity of the current bargaining unit, rather than create a separate bargaining unit within the local for supervisory employees. The status quo has worked and can continue to work.”


CUPE Local 21 reaches tentative agreement with EPCOR

The CUPE Local 21 bargaining committee reached a tentative agreement with EPCOR Water Prairies Inc. in the early morning hours of May 1, 2016. The Union and Company Bargaining Committees reviewed, discussed, revised and/or deleted every Article in the current collective agreement between the parties to develop a new first Collective Agreement specific to the Regina Wastewater Treatment Plant employees and EPCOR Operations. The ratification vote will take place Tuesday, May 10. No details of the tentative agreement will be released until the agreement is ratified.

CUPE Local 21-EPCOR Water Prairies Inc. Bargaining Update (May 4, 2016)

Arbitration board upholds union’s right to post referendum poster

A Board of Arbitration has sided with CUPE in a dispute over a posting on a union notice board during the contentious wastewater treatment plant referendum in 2013.

Along with the community coalition Regina Watch, CUPE Local 21 was a vocal proponent of the “Yes” side during the referendum campaign. The Yes side advocated for a publicly owned and controlled wastewater treatment plant to be built through the traditional public procurement model. Regina City Council and business groups supported the “No” side, which favoured a public-private partnership or P3.

At one point in the campaign, CUPE Local 21 developed a poster to promote a Referendum Barbecue event which took place September 17, 2013. The poster also included the following text: “YES! On Sept 25 vote to Keep water public! PLEDGE TO VOTE YES: Text YES 306.988.1754.”

Shortly after the union notices were posted, managers directed that the Referendum Barbecue posters be taken down from union notice boards.

In its March 6, 2016 ruling, the Board of Arbitration rejected the City’s arguments that the collective agreement provision in question – Article 3(D) – Notice Boards – restricted union postings to neutral information related to membership meetings, social events and such.

Writing for the majority of the Board of Arbitration, Arbitrator Allen Ponak wrote, “Under article 3D, the City agrees to provide easily accessible notice boards for the ‘sole use of the Union’ for the purpose of ‘posting notices of interest to the Union.’ The language in this provision is broad and contains no express restrictions, in contrast to contracts that require management approval before a notice may be posted.”

While the arbitration ruling pointed out that CUPE Local 21 would not be able to post notices that encourage illegal action or material that was defamatory or derogatory, it found that the referendum poster did not violate any of these limitations.

The Board of Arbitration stated that “unions are not precluded from posting partisan and political messages as long as the tone is not inflammatory or derogatory.”

“In the Board’s opinion, the Union had the right to communicate with its members through workplace notice boards established for its sole use on an issue, the referendum, that it believed was of interest to its members. Accordingly, the Board concludes that the instruction by management to have the referendum posters removed violated article 3D of the collective bargaining agreement. “

Read the full arbitration ruling here – Union Notice Boards Arbitration Award – CUPE Local 21-City of Regina

Download the disputed poster here – Referendum Poster

New legislation may impact Local 21 supervisors

With pending legislative changes on the horizon, CUPE Local 21 has requested that the City of Regina enter into an agreement to keep all current supervisors within the bargaining unit.

On April 29, 2016 a new section of The Saskatchewan Employment Act comes into effect that requires that the Labour Relations Board “not include in a bargaining unit any supervisory employees.”

The legislation allows supervisory employees to create their own bargaining unit. It also allows unions and employers to make an “irrevocable election” or agreement to keep supervisory employees in their existing bargaining unit.

CUPE Local 21 has forwarded an irrevocable election agreement to the City, but the City has indicated that they are not willing to sign such an agreement. The City cites unidentified “conflicts” that may exist between supervisory and non-supervisory employees.

CUPE Local 21 believes it is in both the union’s and City of Regina’s interests to maintain the integrity of the current bargaining unit, rather than create a separate bargaining unit within the Local for supervisory employees.  These reasons include:

  • The added resources required of both parties to negotiate and administer a separate collective agreement for supervisory employees.
  • The jurisdictional disputes which will inevitably follow from having a separate supervisory bargaining unit. From the union’s perspective, this will inevitably lead to a loss of flexibility in the ability to manage and direct the workforce; and
  • The loss of industrial stability and increase in the possibility for work stoppages arising from the increase in the number of bargaining units.

To date, the City of Regina has not provided CUPE Local 21 with a list of positions which they have identified as “supervisory.” The legislation specifically excludes lead hands, team leaders and employees temporarily performing higher duties from the definition of “supervisors.”

Your union will provide updates when they are available. For more information please call the CUPE Local 21 office at 306-352-8282.

Bylaw amendments tabled

The Bylaw Review Committee presented a notice of motion at the October 13, 2015 General Membership Meeting to amend the current CUPE Local 21 Constitution and Bylaws. The proposed changes, to be voted on at the November 10, 2015 General Membership Meeting, would see several amendments made to the current bylaws to ensure compliance with the CUPE National Constitution and to promote increased membership involvement, greater clarity in the selection and composition of bargaining committees and enhanced financial transparency. The proposed bylaw amendments can be viewed in their entirety in the Member Login section of this website.

Labour board grants Local 21 bargaining rights for WWTP employees

Saskatchewan’s Labour Relations Board has approved CUPE Local 21’s successorship application to continue to represent wastewater treatment plant employees. A certification order was issued August 12, 2015 that requires EPCOR Water Prairies Inc., the new public-private partnership employer of WWTP employees, to bargain collectively with CUPE Local 21.

CUPE Local 21 and EPCOR plan to start bargaining for a new collective agreement later this fall, but no dates have been confirmed yet. Earlier this year, EPCOR and Local 21 signed an “irrevocable election” to keep the in-scope supervisors at the plant within the CUPE Local 21 bargaining unit.

Letters of Understanding

CUPE Local 21 is posting Letters of Understanding on the website to ensure greater transparency and accountability to the membership, starting with the most recent LOUs. Members can access these Letters of Understanding under the “Resources” tab. Please note that Letters of Understanding identifying specific individual members will not be posted on the website in order to protect those members’ privacy rights. Those members can request a copy of their LOU by contacting the office.