Sask. Trade Unions enduring tough economic times, rolling back wages

LP published on: January 6, 2017 | Last Updated: January 9, 2017 7:41 AM CST

As Saskatchewan’s economy continues to struggle, trade unions in the province are needing to find ways of staying competitive. Garnet Greer, business manager at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), says there has been talk of lowering wages for its members to weather the economic storm.

Alberta’s IBEW local 424 reduced its commercial wages at the end of 2016. “We see it coming our way,” he said. “Our province is resource based and every resource now is probably at the bottom of the cycle, so with that, construction is the first to dry up.”IBEW is looking at other options as well, like changing scheduling or bringing on more apprentices. “It’s not always monetary reductions,” he said, likening the current downturn to the one seen in the early ’90s.

The International Association of Ironworkers Local 771 has roughly 300 people unemployed right now. Business manager Colin Daniels says that, “right now, we’re feeling the effects of the economy downturn” and that “there’s nowhere to go in Western Canada right now so it’s pretty tight all over.” Already the union adjusted its commercial rates, moving hourly wages from $53.48 to $46.04.

“You’ve got to be competitive, right?” says Daniels. The economic downturn is the first for many ironworkers who started working around 2008, when the economy started growing. “It’s been an eye-opener for some of these young guys who got in the trade about eight, nine years ago,” he says. “They’ve never really been laid off. “All the toys that come with making money — houses, boats, cars — are falling at the wayside.

“Now they can’t make the payments,” says Daniels. Business manager for Local 179 Plumbers and Pipefitters 179 Bill Peters says they are feeling the pressure on the commercial side more than the industrial side of business. “We’re still picking up some of the larger jobs,” he says. “Things are slowing down, take a look around Regina there isn’t as much (getting) built.” For now, he is staying positive and says they aren’t in a position where they need to reduce wages in order to stay competitive.

“To cry wolf yet? No,” he says, noting there is still the Co-Op Refinery and other projects in the province needing welders and pipefitters. We’ve never really taken huge increases as we went up.” He also points out that, “when we get our journeymen papers, that’s a journey” and as such, “somewhere along the line, there’s a job down No. 1 Highway.”

Trade unions aren’t the only unions having to take steps to deal with the economy: Premier Brad Wall suggested public sector unions may have to face wage rollbacks, as well.

 

Ratification Vote – Result

Result of the Ratification Vote:

The contract was ratified by 92.5% of the members that attended the three (3) scheduled meetings held January 11, 2017.

The ratification vote by attending members approved a:

  • General Wage Increase (GWI) of 1.9% for each year (2016 / 2017 / 2018)
  • Plus other Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) enhancements.

Your bargaining committee appreciates your participation in this process.

The next step in this process is for Regina City Council to review and ratify the proposed agreement; we expect this to take place before the end of January 2017.

As always, if you have any questions, concerns or comments, please do not hesitate to contact your Union office at 306-352-8282.

 

City of Regina Retroactive Payment Request Form / Article 23 of the Collective Agreement (CBA)

Retroactive Payment Request Form states: In accordance with the applicable article within your Collective Bargaining Agreement, employees who have terminated their employment with the City of Regina prior to the signing of a new agreement can apply within the specified time frame listed below for any of the benefits contained in the new agreement.

Article 23 states: It being understood and agreed, however, any employee having terminated their employment with the City prior to signing this agreement except for reasons of superannuation or death fails to apply within two (2) months from the date of signing this agreement for any of the benefits herein contained shall forfeit any claim for such benefits.

 

Tentative Agreement

Sisters and Brothers:

As you may or may not be aware, our Collective Bargaining Agreement with the City of Regina expired December 31, 2015.

During that time Local 21 was under administration by CUPE National and Dave Stevenson was appointed by CUPE National to be the administrator. Dave Stevenson and his team put together the 2016 bargaining proposals and entered into the collective agreement amendment process with the City of Regina starting, I believe in the spring of 2016.

General elections were held May 10, 2016 and a new executive was duly elected by the members of our Union. Shortly after the election Dave Stevenson and Guy Marsden (both National Representatives) were re-assigned by CUPE National and Brother Bill Cronin (former president of Local 21) was appointed acting administrator and full time Local 21 CUPE National Representative.

Administration was lifted on November 1, 2016 and your Union was returned to you the members with a functioning executive who now became your Local 21 collective bargaining committee.

Your committee entered into ongoing discussions with representatives of the City of Regina and within a timely manner the bargaining committee was able to achieve a tentative agreement on December 16, 2016.

With a tentative agreement now in place the next step in the process is to have the members review and vote on this tentative agreement, with members of Regina City Council doing the same.

We are in the process of securing a date in early January to have a ratification vote. When the details are finalized we will provide notice to the members of the date and time(s) when you can attend, review and cast your vote. Said ratification meeting, review and vote will take place at the Italian Club located at 2048 Connaught Street, again, date and time to be determined.

I look forward to presenting the details of this tentative agreement to the members. I would also like to take this opportunity on behalf of your Local 21 executive to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year.

Tim Anderson, President

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

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.

Important Update – Confidentiality Declaration

The City of Regina recently announced that it is requiring new employees and current employees to sign a Confidentiality Declaration. CUPE Local 21 has written to the City to request that they cease and desist from making employees sign this form until the union has had an opportunity to review this declaration and provide feedback in a meeting with the City. The Confidentiality Declaration may violate Article 22(B) Indemnity Clause and other provisions of the collective agreement.

CUPE Local 21 strongly encourages members to refrain from signing the Confidentiality Declaration until we are satisfied that it will not violate your collective agreement rights. Further updates will be provided as they become available.

Pension changes to take effect January 1, 2016

Changes to the Regina Civic Pension Plan resulting from last November’s Memorandum of Understanding will now be implemented January 1, 2016, instead of July 1, 2015.

The adjustment of the implementation date was approved by the employee Pension and Benefit Committee (PBC) and Regina City Council. It also has the blessing of the province’s superintendent of pensions, who has given the green light to the plan changes.

Good progress has been made to date, but Kirby Benning, PBC Chair, says “there’s so many little things that have to be done, and we’re just running out of time for the end of June.

A Sponsorship Agreement, Trust Agreement, Plan Text and other documents have been drafted and are being closely reviewed by the PBC and Employer Sponsors, which includes the City of Regina, EPCOR, and four other employers.

A city administrative report to City Council notes most of the work is done, but further work is needed on governance restructuring, an actuarial valuation and communication of plan changes to those affected. The whole package will also need to be formally ratified by the PBC and employer groups.

Draft LOU Proposals

City management would like to consolidate a number of existing hours of work LOUs in various departments into generic templates for its new payroll system. Please be aware that NOTHING has been agreed to.

We received numerous criticisms, feedback and suggested proposals from the membership after the release of the original draft proposals. We took these concerns back to the employer and let them know how concerned the membership is. The employer will be incorporating concerns and will be developing another set of drafts for the membership to consider.

It is important to stress that NO CHANGES will be made without further consultation and input from the membership and nothing will be agreed to until members affected have had a chance to vote on any changes. Please contact the local with your questions and concerns.