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Posted on 09-15-2008 under Bargaining, General Discussion

Hi,

In the interest of promoting discussion and informing you the members, I am going to post the contents of two letters that are circulating. These letters express the personal opinions of individual members and are not to be considered the voice of Local 245. Read, consider and form your own opinion.

You can download a copy of the Memorandum of Settlement here.

Frederick Oliver, V P Communications Local 245

 

from Janice Hagan, Chief Steward, OPSEU Local 561

Please Vote “NO” on the Tentative Agreement

Disclaimer:  This is a personal message and is not intended to represent the views of the Local 561 Executive Committee, officers, or any other elected body under O.P.S.E.U.  This opinion is offered to stimulate rigorous debate, with deepest respect to the Bargaining Team and the difficult decisions they have made. 

Vote “NO” on the Tentative Agreement.  Do not allow “Initiatives / Opportunities” positions (Contract Positions) into our workplace (see page 21 of Agreement circulating).  I have represented our members in hundreds of grievances over the past 12 years, many of them fought to rid our workplace of exactly this kind of abuse.  This Agreement will propel us backward again.  The increase in our recognition pay will never make up for the job security and promotion opportunities lost.  I urge you to vote against this Tentative Agreement.

What is an Initiatives / Opportunities Position?

I refuse to call these new positions, “Initiatives / Opportunities” positions.  Management’s use of these loaded words should be enough to make you squirm.  Call these mutant jobs, “I/O Positions”, or better yet, what they really are:  In/Out Positions”.  They are also called “just-in-time”, “flexible”, “term-certain”, “temporary”, “contract” or “Mc” jobs.  They will eventually replace all good support staff jobs at our colleges, like they have in many other industries.  In/Out jobs are the equivalent of “contracting out” on a micro-scale: one job at a time. 

Under the proposed language, the legal definition of an In/Out job will be left completely up to management.  There is no definition of “initiative” or “opportunity”.  The new language only requires management to meet one condition:  in order to declare work “temporary”, they must know the end date of the job.  That will be easy because management has the legal right to set the end date of any job (Article 3.1).  So how can the Union ever prove that a position is NOT ending on a date (i.e. not temporary), if the boss says the work is ending on that date?   

Feeble Protection

The new language sounds like it will protect jobs.  There is a promise that these new In/Out jobs will not replace “existing full-time…positions”.  Don’t be fooled by slick but empty words.  This language is so weak, it is practically useless.  Currently, under articles 1.1 and 1.6, existing bargaining unit WORK cannot be assigned to temporary, full-time workers.  That is much stronger language.  Changing this protection from “work” to “positions” gives management absolute power to declare any work temporary, as long as it isn’t being done by anyone, right now.  Legally, a “position” only exists if there is an employee in it, or if management says it exists (Article 3.1).  In addition, management has the right to set a position’s duties, change those duties or even create a new position.  We can’t stop them.

If a position becomes vacant, management can post a slightly modified “In/Out” position, without violating the letter of understanding.  Management may even layoff full-time staff and replace them with a different configuration of evolving In/Out positions.  

Full time staff have been laid off and replaced by part-time staff many times.  This isn’t supposed to happen under the spirit of Article 1.2, which promises to “give preference” to full-time over part-time staffing.  Unfortunately, like this proposed In/Out language, Article 1.2 is very weak.  I know, because I have spent many days in arbitration hearings having obvious abuses explained to me from a very legal perspective.  It has been almost impossible for the union to enforce Article 1.2 through arbitration.  The length of time and legal costs of proving such a case is also prohibitive.  A new supervisor, new operational plan, new funding, “whoops, we goofed”: anything can be used, legally, by management, to justify changing the nature of positions in a department, or changing them back again.  By the time the manipulation becomes obvious, it is usually too late to grieve.

Finally, don’t read anything into management’s requirement to “notify” the Local, and to listen to any “representations” the Local might want to make for its members.  This is not the same as requiring the union’s agreement.  This is the same weak language that we have under shift changes and campus transfers.  Ask anyone who has been through a major shift change how weak that protection is.  Management notifies us (sends a memo).  They listen to our representations.  Then, they do what they wanted to do anyway.

A Little CAAT-S History

Ten years ago, many colleges had several temporary, full-time positions, because managers deliberately misused Article 1.6 (non-recurring positions).  Many new positions started out as contract positions.  Some were changed slightly after a year, so they could be called different non-recurring jobs. We found these abuses widely spread throughout IT, academic program areas, Recreation, Counselling and Executive functions like marketing and research. In addition, many jobs in programs where funding had to be renewed on an annual basis (ie. federal programs and Contract Training) were defined as “non-recurring”. That was a lot of jobs, and they were, more often than not, technologist and SSO jobs in the top pay bands. 

Many Locals argued through grievances for many years and finally shut the “contract” abuse down.  Most of the exploited, “temporary” workers were given full-time jobs, many of which still exist today.  Others lost their jobs in the fight.  Let us not forget their sacrifices.  Because of their grievances, there are now hundreds more, high paying, technical and student/client service positions in our bargaining unit, rather than outside of it.  These are jobs you can move into through competition, accommodation or bumping.  When we gave the Colleges an inch, they took a mile.  Why are we now offering them a mile?

Temporary Workers without Job Security are not Free to Enforce their Rights under the Collective Agreement.

Giving the new, In/Out workers full rights to everything in the Collective Agreement, except Article 15 (job security), is like giving a drowning man a shovel.  How many “temporary” workers will grieve an injustice or unfair wage rate when the union can’t protect them from losing their jobs in retaliation?  What benefit could possibly be worth more than job security? 

And why shouldn’t every worker be able to bump into a vacancy that they have the skills to fill?  Why shouldn’t they have the right to bump an employee with less seniority than they have?

You KNOW this will NOT Create PD Opportunities

Raise your hand if you think YOU will get one of these exciting new employment opportunities.  Posting of temporary positions is already a right and consideration of bargaining unit employees is a voluntary option for management.  Why aren’t you getting these opportunities, now?  How many managers are more likely to hire their sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, neighbours, friends, daughters of contractors, the guy who paved their driveway, etc., to quickly fill temporary vacancies?  The only difference with this language, is that traditional, nepotism hires will suddenly have the right to be considered internal candidates.

Allowing us to grieve temporary positions if they are unfairly denied is also useless.  Very few employees even grieve competitions now.  They don’t want to anger the boss and be denied future opportunities.  Furthermore, if a grievance over a temporary position has to go to arbitration, the In/Out job will be finished before the grievance can be resolved.

In fact, this new language will cut temporary positions available for “PD Opportunities” in half.  Our current language (art. 17.3.1) requires the College to also post the temporary vacancy AND the second vacancy created if a full-time employee wins the temporary assignment.  The new language requires the College to fill that secondary vacancy with an Appendix D worker from outside the bargaining unit.  That secondary opportunity is now lost to us. 

Conclusion

Why would any College train or upgrade its technologists when it will be easier to bring in some temporary, contract technologists, to implement new software or hardware?  Why send programmers to learn new platforms or languages when every new computer program required by a College is a new initiative, anyway.  Why would a College use long term staff in Contract Training, when they can replace them with temporary staff, on an annual basis, staff that can be changed at their whim, with each new “initiative” or funding “opportunity”?

Slowly, our technologists will become lab monitors and our SSO positions will be lost, as higher paid “consultants” are brought in to do our “project work”, one piece at a time.

What new initiatives or opportunities exist in your area of your College?  

There are three major threats to fairly paid, unionized jobs in our workplaces.  All of them involve the Colleges finding cheaper (not better) ways of doing our work: (1) contracting out; (2) the exploitation of part-timers; and now, if you ratify this Tentative Agreement, (3) the introduction of “In/Out” jobs or “contract” workers into our offices and labs. 

It is too late to fight contracting out.  We lost many jobs because we didn’t prepare ourselves for that future. We have taken our fight to prevent the exploitation of part-timers to the Supreme Court and United Nations.  We are so close to victory and a new law!  Why would we give the Colleges this new tool against full union membership, now, after all of that? 

Management has been asking for more “flexible employment” from support staff for as long as I can remember.   We have heard the word “flexibility” so often, and in such frightening contexts, that College union activists call it the “F-Word”.  When members of our provincial Executive and Bargaining Team met with the College Presidents, a few years back, to “mend our broken relationship”, one of the top things we told management was to stop using the F-Word.  So, now they are using “In/Out” instead.  [Insert your own punch line, here.]

Please do not let this letter into our Collective Agreement.  Vote NO on the Tentative Agreement.

 

Hello Brothers and Sisters:

 

Having been on several bargaining teams, I do know how difficult the process is and I have the utmost respect for our team.  I truly wish I could support the deal that they cut on our behalf.  However, I cannot.  In good conscious I cannot promote this to my members.  Nor should you.

 

The tentative settlement has some areas in it that do not sit well with me.  I am a strong unionist as you are all aware, and though  what is in this settlement certainly will not affect me personally, it may affect the membership in later years and that is what I am all about, I am not in this for my own gratification.  If you recall we received $400.00 service recognition pay in the last negotiations in addition to our increase.  This time, management is still only offering 3% and asking us to accept $425.00 without it being an increase to our base pay; it is to be provided to us in a “bonus” form, which I believe is dangerous because it could be negotiated away at a later time.  Pay increases I believe should be imbedded within one’s salary.  This way they are also pensionable.  If we had received 3.86% added to our salary base, then that would be compounded.  So doing the math (and I am not a math expert) based on a $50,000.00 per year salary, I calculate that we lose almost $1,000.00 over the three year period.

 

 But, aside from the money which is certainly not the be all and end all in bargaining, and much more importantly, the Term Certain employee structure is quite disturbing.  Firstly, I do not recall seeing “Term Certain Employees” in the June 12th offer.  But it is there now, and the bargaining team has presented it us to promote to our members.  I will not.

 

Management has been pushing for this clause for years.  We have fought back and have made them back off… until now.  What the heck happened.   For current members who have many years left before they retire, and our future members, this will eventually erode our full time bargaining unit structure as we know it.    We will then have two levels of employees, those with job security and those without.  Inevitably those without will increase in numbers weakening the union’s presence and undermining the interests of all bargaining unit employees.  

 

As local leaders, surely we can all see clearly that, this is wrong.  I believe this is generally a regressive agreement with “Term Certain Employees” included (regardless of how it is dressed up) that will continue to erode our interests in years to come. Collective Agreements should be progressive and not regressive.   I believe that the membership in their own best interest should be encouraged to reject it and seek a new agreement more consistent with union principles.

 

You now have my input.  I would like to hear yours.

 

In Solidarity

 

Betty Cree, President OPSEU Local 351 

One comment so far.

On Sep 15 2008 @ 15:28, dwjdwj said: |

As a union member I have nothing but faith in the fact that my bargaining team took many things into consideration before approving the current tentative agreement. Is it perfect? Of course not! Would 4% be better than 3%? Definitely. Am I willing to walk a picket line over it? Absolutley not. If this deal is not worth accepting, then we should have been walking on September 1st.





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