The Clock is Ticking
Civic Workers Fight for a Fair and Dignified Contract
By Paul Faoro*
Time may be running out to prevent public services and programs from being shut down by strike action in the lower mainland. Since April 26th when our members voted 93.5% in favour of a strike to support our bargaining committee, CUPE members working at the Corporation of Delta, the District of North Vancouver and the Recreation Centre have delivered three more strong strike mandates. A strike vote is scheduled for CUPE members employed by the City of Burnaby and several other locals representing municipal and library workers are contemplating strike votes in the coming weeks.
In total 12,000 CUPE members in the lower mainland are working under contracts that expired last year. It is time for all of the mayors and councilors across the region to wake up and realize that CUPE members are not going to accept concessions that roll back existing rights and benefits in collective agreements. It is also time for them to direct the GVRD Labour Relations Bureau and their negotiators who are representing them at the bargaining tables to drop their outdated regressive demands and negotiate fair, respectful and honorable collective agreements that CUPE members deserve. In this day and age it is shameful that their lead negotiator states “the employer’s only obligation is to their employees, not to the employee’s family.”
I am hoping that Mayor Sullivan in Vancouver gets this message but I am not sure as he is still refusing to meet with me to discuss the status of our negotiations. I would have thought Mayor Sullivan would be doing everything possible to ensure that agreements are reached with our union and all of the other unions representing nearly 8,000 city employees. I say this as the world is watching Vancouver prepare for the 2010 Olympics and any disruption will certainly be picked up by Canadian and international media. Not the kind of attention I would want to bring to my political party and myself especially in the last half of my term in office and seeking re-election next year, like Mayor Sullivan is.
Last week the Mayor was boasting about having the “strongest local & regional economy in Canada”. I agree our economy is booming and we are feeling the effects of record high housing and gas prices yet the City of Vancouver is still pushing for wage freezes for many of their lowest paid workers. This is at the same time they are issuing their 2006 Statement of Financial Information which shows earnings for City Manager Judy Rogers increasing $48,000 or approximately 18%, from the preceding year. Many of our members don’t make $48,000 in a year. The City Manager took home $318,838 in 2006.
Knowing this reaffirms that our public campaign theme “Fairness for Civic Workers” is bang on the money. I would encourage everyone to visit www.fairnessforcivicworkers.ca and support the civic workers in your community.
* Paul Faoro is the President of Canadian Union of Public Employee -CUPE Local 15. He is also a long time social justice advocate. The article is from Member Voice #, CUPE 15 monthly newspaper and is being printed with the author’s permission. A second Title is from Fire This Time.
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