By Tania Parker
“We did it! We’re going back,” brightly announced a billboard, seen at the picket line throughout its 188-day stay on the curb. “Thank you for all your support.”
Approximately 70 Emergency Roadside Assistance dispatchers, call takers and administrative personnel had been locked out by BCAA since June 5, leaving managers to take the emergency calls. The workers are members of the Movement of United Professionals (MoveUP), formerly named COPE 378.
Workers were abruptly escorted from their desks and shown the door following a week-long job action that involved wearing flip flops to work.
“We made history. We won some major battles and some minor battles, and in the end we got what we were fighting for. We finally have parity,” exclaims Darshan Andrews, a Member Experience Representative (call taker), and familiar face at the picket line.
Same pay for equal work
Andrews, along with her fellow Emergency Roadside Assistance department workers, were fighting for equality in the workplace for over a year – for simply same pay for equal work.
While MoveUP members worked 40 hours per week, their non-unionized counterparts doing similar work enjoyed a shorter 35-hour work week for the same pay.
The new mediated agreement, which was ratified on Dec. 10 by the BCAA Board of Directors, uses a combination of reduced hours and increased pay to level the field. “We are happy with the deal we got and are looking forward to returning to work and getting back to normalcy,” Andrews explains.
Solidarity strengthens, CEO resigns
The moments leading up to the successful agreement brought a whirlwind of events.
Following a 15-hour marathon session on Nov. 11, MoveUP was presented with an offer that was nowhere near what the union was asking, and both parties left the table at an impasse.
MoveUP ramped up campaigning efforts at this point. The #RealLeadersDont social media campaign was launched, bringing messages to the public eye, such as “#RealLeadersDont lock their people out. BCAA isn’t a real leader,” and, “#RealLeadersDont try to starve their people out”.
“Many BCAA members were not even aware of the lockout,” Andrews explains. “This campaign was a way to get the word out, and people started hearing about the lockout.”
With the social media campaign in full swing, BCAA CEO Paul Healey abruptly resigned on Dec. 7 after a mere 15 months on the job.
After Healey’s sudden departure, Saunders’ suggestions were put to the board on Dec. 8, and in an apparent change of heart the very next day, the board said yes.
“Most of us believe that the CEO was the roadblock here. He really did prove time and time again, that he didn’t care that we were out there. He wanted his win. But he didn’t anticipate we would fight,” says Andrews.
And fight they did. “At the beginning, we were angry, hurt and had no idea what to do. Thankfully MoveUP took us under their wing and were an incredible support. We began to feel like a family. Solidarity formed. We took that anger, and we turned it into something productive,” Andrews states.
Locked out members also did not let their job insecurity damper the holiday season for others, continuing their tradition of sponsoring four senior ladies for Christmas. “We decided, whether we are inside or out on the curb, that we should continue with what we could,” explains Andrews.
A learning experience
After over six months of round the clock picketing, most nights huddled around a fire pit, MoveUP members are returning to work armed with much more information about the labour movement and union processes. “We learned a lot from this, information we can use to protect ourselves,” Andrews says.
“We also learned a lot about each other. We learned that there are some amazing people out there who were incredibly supportive during this struggle,” Andrews says.
“There is going to be a lot of repairing of relationships that will need to be done with our managers. But we are glad to get back to work.”
“Crazy that it’s finally over,” Andrews adds, “and weird, as picketing has become the new normal for us.”