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.