By Samantha Ponting
Locked out emergency roadside assistance workers for the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) are calling on BCAA members to refrain from using Evo, a new car-sharing program operated by the BCAA, until workers reach a fair settlement with the company.
70 dispatch and administrative personnel of the BCAA, members of the Canadian Office of Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 378, have been locked out since June 5, one week after the union issued a strike notice to the employer.
COPE members are upset that they are working 40 hours per week while the rest of the company is working 35 hours for the same pay.
“It’s about parity in the workplace and being fair to everybody. It’s wrong,” says Darshan Andrews, a locked out dispatcher. “We’re working 20 hours a month more.”
While dispatch workers work 40 hours a week, non-unionized office administrators, management, and now workers at the newly formed Evo car sharing department are all working 35 hours per week.
“We’ve been asking for this for over a year,” says Andrews. “Either let us work the 35 hours or pay us accordingly.”
Dispatch workers have been without a contract since September, 2014. Following two successful strike votes, workers began job action. “We asked people to come in and wear hats or flip flops or tank tops, things we weren’t normally allowed to wear at work,” says Andrews.
“We all started to wear union pins.”
Management responded with a lockout notice.
Andrews says management interrupted customer service to remove the employees from the workplace. “At four o’clock on Monday, they came through the call centre. One by one, they took us off the phones, some of us with headsets talking to members needing our help.”
The union has expressed concerns over the effect the lockout could have on customer safety and wait times.
“We are absolutely flabbergasted that we are even at this point,” she says.
The BCAA is a member-based organization that offers roadside assistance and insurance products in BC and the Yukon. It has 1,000 employees, 800,000 members, and generates more than $400 million in annual revenue.
In March, the BCAA lauched Evo, joining such companies as Modo, Zipcar, and Car2Go in the Vancouver car-share business.
COPE Local 387 is asking Vancouverites to select another car sharing company for their mobility needs.
Andrews says BCAA members “are the ones that have the ability to put pressure on the company to get back to the table and give us a fair deal.”
She says, “BCAA members are what holds the company together. Without them, they’re not a company. It’s mostly BCAA members that are using Evo.”
The locked out workers have been visiting Stanley Park and have had some positive conversations with the Vancouver community.
Andrews says, “When they hear what it is we’re fighting for, they say, ‘that’s just stupid, that’s just fairness, why don’t they give it to you?’”
The dispatch workers have also seen a lot of support on the picket line. According to Andrews, members “love love love” to have visitors at the line, located at 5590 Goring Street, Burnaby, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“There’s been so much support. We really thrive off of that,” she says.
COPE Local 378 is asking BCAA members to call the BCAA at 604-268-5000 (Lower Mainland) or 1-800-811-5900 (toll-free) and tell the association to negotiate a fair deal with their roadside assistance dispatchers.