CUPE Local 973 and county officials at odds over pay settlement

When county social services workers re­ceived a three year contract calling for 3%, 2.75%, and 2.75% increases and non-union staff got 3% each year for the same period, representatives of the union became upset.

But the county is unlikely to make any changes to a legally signed contract from last May, no matter how loudly the union representatives become. The administration, finance, and personnel committee noted in its report to council March 26 that the complaint had been presented, but there was no recommendation to do anything about it.

The complaint is coming from Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 973 and rep­resentative Jill Smyth. That local, which has 80 members is social services, day care, and maintenance at Wellington County, asked the county ad­ministration, finance, and personnel committee to top up the increases to 3% for the second and third years of the contract.

Committee chairman John Green said in an interview, “The two parties hopefully bargained in good faith. The result is what is there.”

Green said in private life he has been on both sides of such negotiations, and, “a negoti­a­tion is a negotiation – and that is the result.”

Smyth said in an interview the union wanted the “pro­vin­cial standard” of 3% for each of three years. She added that union representatives were told the council had a “strict man­date.”

She added, “We thought it would be applied to all county work groups,” Smyth said.

Instead, the county’s 240 full time non-union employees and 240 part time workers received 3% for each of three years.

“Our members were very upset, and rightly so,” Smyth said. She added that the county was recently named a Top 100 employer by Maclean’s Maga­zine, and, “We felt a Top 100 should treat all employees equally … The members felt they were not given respect … That doesn’t make them an equitable employer.”

She said an entry level clerk’s position for the local is about $18 per hour. Case­workers earn over $30 per hour, and most union members “average the $27 [per hour] range.”

Smyth conceded “We did get some small benefit im­prove­ments.”

But that is not how county Human Resources Director Andrea Lawson would charac­terize those benefits.

With the signing of the con­tract in may, the CUPE mem­bers receive the following benefits:

– a maternity and paren­tal and adoption leave top-up to a maximum of 75% for a maxi­mum of 26 weeks.  Full-time permanent unionized employ­ees are eligible.

– Mileage reimbursement at 50 cents per kilometer;

– paid bereavement leave for step-children and step-par­ents increased to five days from three days;

– benefit enhancements such as visual training, PSA test, Surgical Brasseries, and Breast Prosthesis added;

– Vision care coverage op­tion to allow existing vision coverage amount to be used for a one time use only with no carry-forward of balance for laser eye surgery;

– addition of orthodontics to 50% coverage to maximum of $2,000 lifetime use;

– an increase in shift pre­mium from 85 cents to $1 per hour;

– a winter parka (as needed)

– a boot allowance changed from $125 to $175 per year; and

– the addition of Family Day, the third Monday in Feb­ruary, as a paid holiday.

There were also benefits that union members received that non-union members did not receive. Those included:

– warning, disciplinary ac­tion, and expressions of dis­satis­faction shall be re­moved from the employee’s file after 24 months of date of issue. For non-union employ­ees, those documents remain in the employee’s file indefinitely.

– CUPE members with three  years of employment who wish to further their education to­wards their career objective in the county may be permitted up to one year of education leave, with seniority retained during that period.

– An increase of meal allow­ance to $12 from $7. Non-union employees’ meal allow­ance is $8.

There are benefits the CUPE members have that the non-union employees do not have:

– Early retiree benefit pre­miums paid 100% by county.  Non-union employees pay 10% of the premiums.

– Accrued sick leave with 50% payout value upon termi­nation or retirement once ten years of continuous employ­ment reached.

– Grid movement is not link­­ed to performance.  Em­ploy­ees will automatically move to the next step in the grid once they reach the service level for the next step.

– Internal posting process whereby all positions are posted within the CUPE group for a five day period first.  Only full time permanent CUPE members are eligible to apply and be considered during that period.

– Bumping and seniority rights.

– If a CUPE member leaves work sick after 12 noon on a workday, the remainder of the day that is not worked is paid out to that employee as regular pay.  The sick bank is not used.

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Lawson said the union members have “quite a few bene­fits that non-union staff do not have.”

She said that in several cas­es, the county simply offered those extras, like maternity leave enhancement, to the union without a negotiation. She said the increased mileage payments,  increased bereave­ment leave, and an increase in the boot allowance were offer­ed directly – without being nego­tiated for salary increases.

Lawson added, “We nego­ti­ated fairly, honestly, and above board and we fell we went over and above” with extras. “We could have played a cat and mouse game.”

Lawson added, “There is always going to be some inequities between union and non-union members.”

She concluded, “I am proud and happy we conducted the nego­tiations in the manner that we did, and I feel no qualms about the outcome of it.”

Green added that in one published report about the dele­gation to his committee there were inferences that the county was attempting to “break the union.” He said as warden and committee chairman he has never heard discussions of doing that. “That’s just innuendo in my opinion.”