By Daniel Tseghay
Updated July 27, 2016
On July 21st, the BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) planned to lockout out their employees, who are members of MoveUP, first thing the following morning. Locking them out would effectively dissolve the standing collective agreement.
At 10 am on July 22, 2016, BCNU ordered their employees back to work, forcing them work under their final offer. “Here we have an employer that’s a union and presumably knows how to bargain collective agreements,” said David Black, president of MoveUP, in an interview with Rankandfile. “And yet they are not meeting us at the bargaining table and unfortunately the employer decided they would rather undertake these blatant tactics rather than negotiate a fair collective agreement for their employees.”
The current collective agreement with MoveUP, which represents about 75 office and administrative employees of BCNU, expired on December 31, 2015 and negotiations have been underway since January 2016.
It’s been a long and troubling process, according to MoveUP member and BCNU employee Leisa Smith, who’s been an employee for 14 years, works as the print room clerk, and is on the bargaining team.
“A union rep got a call saying that they’ve got another offer for us,” Smith said in an interview with Rankandfile. “We were encouraged thinking that maybe there’d be some movement. But it was their final offer. On the following Monday, without giving us a chance to talk to our members about it, they called a mandatory staff meeting to try to sell the offer. They didn’t get a good response from the members. We didn’t hear from them until they said they would lock us out.”
BCNU’s current offer cuts sick leave, medical appointment leave, and family responsibility leave.
“With members when they get sick or if they have a family member, like a child in daycare, and they can’t take their child to daycare, there goes a day,” says Smith.
These were the primary concerns of the employees, but workers also sought better wages and an improved grievance handling process.
With the BCNU now refusing to get back to the bargaining table or accept mediation, MoveUP’s members voted to take strike action and are now on strike.
And they’re not alone. The BCNU’s history of raiding other unions, rather than bringing new members in themselves, has led to sanctions by the BC Federation of Labour. Simon Fraser University’s Teaching Support Staff Union voted in June to condemn such actions. The Canadian Union of Public Employees BC (CUPE) BC, along with CUPE’s National President Mark Hancock, has joined the picket line. So have other BCNU staff in departments represented by Unifor 888.
“We’re working for an organization that really is out there for patient care,” says Smith. “What they fight everyday for, and my members support the initiative, is that their health matters. Well our health matters too.”