Category Archives: British Columbia

Rich Coleman Has a Home; How Many Thousands Don’t?

There seems to be a debate about how many homeless people there are in BC right now. 5,000 up to 15,000?

At any rate, quite a few.

Rich Coleman, minister responsible for homelessness, however is happy to have a home. I don’t begrudge him being able to afford a home. I just wish he’d do more for the many thousands who cannot enjoy all of what he does.

Minister Coleman’s Facebook page tonight [above] has this juicy little bit [a close-up of the above page]:

In The Tyee you can read the debate about numbers. And my freedom of information requests to BC Housing about their definition of and methodology for counting the homeless may be instructive, whenever they arrive. Even if we go with Coleman’s sad, low number, we read in The Tyee that the government isn’t interested in addressing the needs of more than 1/3 of them.

I know from an ideological standpoint, the Campbell neoLiberal government doesn’t like social housing; nor does Vancouver’s NPA. That communitarian response undermines the market approach of worshiping market housing and just providing grants to some needy [and able to jump through administrative hoops] folks, leaving many of the desperate shivering under overpasses and such.

While there may be a myriad of hidden assistance programs [not that the government is interested in making it hard to apply for assistance for things!], BC Housing’s Rental Assistance Program requires you to have some income from employment to get rental assistance as well as a dependent child under 19 and be regularly filing income tax returns: not conditions that apply to everyone on the street tonight.

I wonder if Coleman’s “it won’t last” is some cosmic, karmic omen…

Happy winter, everyone!

Steve’s New Hoax: Legislative Ratification of Treaties

I’ve taken to calling it Executive Overdrive: the urge in BC, Ottawa and elsewhere for the executive branch of government to find ways of secretly doing constitutionally significant things [like the SPP or creating a de facto economic union between BC and Alberta with TILMA [which you’ve probably never heard of]] without legislative oversight or a large public referendum.

But now I see that the Harper government is pledging to actually put international treaties before the House of Commons. On first blush I got very excited to see something so awesome coming from someone so clearly tyrannical.

But then I read past the first sentence. The whole steaming mess is below and here if you want to see it with its DFAIT webpage background.

Putting a treaty before the House like the Americans do with their Senate is a fascinating nod to the appearance of “democracy”[tm]. But allowing voting to merely be an option is cynical. Calling the idea of legislative ratification “unnecessary and cumbersome” is more Steve’s style.

But the worst part is reserving the right to just skip the whole charade if cabinet thinks it is an exceptional circumstance.

In the end, there is no binding substance to the announcement. It looks like democracy matters, but in the end, it’s just cruel window dressing.

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: News Release 20 – CANADA ANNOUNCES POLICY TO TABLE INTERNATIONAL TREATIES IN HOUSE OF COMMONS
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 11:30:07 -0500

January 25, 2008 (11:30 a.m. EST)
No. 20

CANADA ANNOUNCES POLICY TO TABLE INTERNATIONAL TREATIES IN HOUSE OF COMMONS

The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that the Government of Canada has changed the way it signs on to international treaties.

“As of today, all treaties between Canada and other states or entities, and which are considered to be governed by public international law, will be tabled in the House of Commons,” said Minister Bernier. “This reflects our government’s commitment to democracy and accountability. By submitting our international treaties to public scrutiny, we are delivering on our promise for a more open and transparent government.”

In the 2006 Speech from the Throne, Prime Minister Stephen Harper committed to bringing international treaties before the House of Commons to give Parliament a role in reviewing international agreements.

A treaty creates legal obligations for Canada under international law and the government believes that further engaging Parliament in the international treaty process will give it a greater role in ensuring that these treaties serve the interests of all Canadians. Under the new process, members of the House of Commons may review and discuss the treaty—examining, debating or voting—before Canada formally agrees to ratify it.

With the new policy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will have the responsibility for tabling all treaties to be signed for Canada.

– 30 –

A backgrounder follows.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-995-1874
www.international.gc.ca/index.aspx

Backgrounder

TREATY PROCEDURE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

The government intends to table all international treaties in the House of Commons before taking further steps to bring these treaties into force. It is committed to giving the House an important role in reviewing Canadian treaties.

Description

The procedure is similar to procedures used for a long time in the United Kingdom and Australia.

The government will maintain the executive role in negotiating agreements.

Prior to the government finally binding Canada to an agreement, it will table the treaty in the House of Commons. The Clerk of the House will distribute the full text of the agreement and an explanatory memorandum giving the salient issues in the treaty to each Member of Parliament.

The government will observe a waiting period of 21 sitting days from the date of the tabling before taking any action to bring the treaty into effect. When treaties require legislative amendment, the government is committed to delaying the legislation until this 21-sitting-day period has passed.

The House may debate the agreement, if it chooses to do so. The government offers the House the opportunity to discuss treaties that it judges important.

This is similar to practice in the UK. It avoids an unnecessary and cumbersome procedure where every agreement would be put to a resolution of the House.

Role of the House

Members of the House of Commons may wish to review and discuss the policy of the treaty.

The government will maintain the legal authority to decide whether to ratify the treaty. It will, of course, give consideration to the view of the House in coming to a decision.

Very exceptionally the Government may have to bind Canada to the treaty before the treaty is tabled, informing the House of the treaty at the earliest opportunity.

Downtown Ambassadors: Subsidizing the Thug Class

Well, it took a great deal of digging in the hopelessly inadequate free daily “newspapers” today, but it was eventually possible to get the full story on the city of Vancouver spending almost 3/4 of a million dollars to match the funding for the downtown’s Business Improvement Association’s private thug force.

The privatization-happy neoliberal Non-Partisan Association [sic]-dominated Vancouver city council finds it easier to use our money to fund a private security force than to just privatize the police. Vision City Councillor Tim Stevenson said public money should go to a public police force; the flip side is that public money should not be subsidizing a private security force accountable to the Business Improvement Association. Let them pay for their thugs to criminalize the poor.

But that makes us wonder if even that is such a good idea. In the article above, Irwin Loy “examines” the other side of the story by including Stevenson’s comment and another idea that the money should be spent helping the needy.

The real other side of the story, though, is that the Downtown Ambassadors are the thug class that Naomi Wolf is writing about in The End of America: a group of private enforcers for the business class to do more than just help tourists find the nearest Starbucks and ask the homeless to not spit in front of Roots on Robson Street.

The Downtown Ambassadors used to look like innocuous doormen from an almost swanky hotel in 1976, with garish red costumes and big hats. Today, as the picture above shows, they look like the rent-a-cops that they are, complete with red stripes down their pants. Their mandate includes tasks like “report crime and ‘quality of life’ concerns to appropriate agencies and assist in mitigating these from taking root.” Quality of life concerns have in the past been moving the homeless out of public lanes and alleys because that is too close to a business. Assisting in mitigating these from taking root is far more than reporting them to the real police. The Downtown Ambassadors have been roundly hated by the poor and their advocates for some time now.

And lackey Dave Jones explains that the real police are so professionally trained that they shouldn’t be bothered with asking those homeless to stop spitting. The flip side of that is that the Downtown Ambassadors are not so very professionally trained. And they are far from sufficiently trained to deal with the levels of mental illness among our street people. And why should they be…they aren’t being tasked with fixing that problem, just with sending them back to the Main and Hastings ghetto and off Robson and Granville.

But the rest of the story is to be found in the city’s other terrible free “newspaper” where David Eby from the Pivot Legal Society is announcing the plan to give blankets to the homeless. On those blankets are listed their rights as citizens of the country, though as the poor, their rights are being squashed by neoliberals like Lorne Mayencourt, Geoff Plant and Sam Sullivan in their plans to sanitize and criminalize the poor.

If you look carefully in the photograph you can actually read one of the rights of the homeless in our society. In distinguishing between private and public property, security guards are allowed to move people from private space, but they have no power to move people from sidewalks and alleys.

And that is the point of the whole mess. Pivot actually cares about the rights of the rapidly disenfranchised poor. The Downtown Ambassador thug class is all about tracking them to better shunt them out of the business realms.

But you had to actually read both rag “newspapers” to get the whole picture. Oh, the humanity.

Sam Sullivan’s Latest Re-Election Schemes, 54 Weeks[!] Before the Election

Today’s fresh new email from Mayor Sam Sullivan [see below] graced my email inbox with an upfront expression of his concern for the recent shootings in Vancouver. After the debacle of his attempt at union-breaking strike management he now wants to assure us he’s out to protect our lives.

Start the email with fear and the calming words of a leader out to protect us all. Boo. Truly scary is during the civic strike he spoke in similarly glowing terms of municipal employees. His walk did not match his talk there. Further, invoking Stockwell Day shows how much Sam is out of touch with the kind of figures who resonate with Vancouverites.

Then Sam moves on to his personal, unscientific, but sure to be quoted for the next 54 weeks of the municipal election campaign [and even longer] survey of citizens on the necessity of extending Skytrain to UBC.

The context of this is important. In order to force the TransLink leadership [democratically elected, pesky as that was] to commit to the Canada Line privateer-megaproject for the Olympics, after failed votes, eventually northeast suburb politicians were bribed with the Evergreen Line to Coquitlam Centre in exchange for voting for the Canada Line.

Democracy is an inconvenient truth in BC. The BC neoLiberal government is currently in the legislature ramming through a bill that will remove all democracy from TransLink and put the board directly in the hands of corporate appointees.

I seem to remember something before our time about the American revolution being about taxation without representation. Now in the 21st century we are embracing it in BC, legislatively so. Shame.

Back to Sam, though. His personal, unscientific, qualitative survey is all about justifying a future bid to supplant the Evergreen Line timeline to get the next Skytrain leg out West Broadway to UBC. Maybe this isn’t his plan, but since it may be a decade before this extension is supposed to occur, after the northeast sector, what is Sam’s rush to meet with West Broadway businesses now and embark on this poll on his personal website?

The pdf on his site on why we should complete the Millenium Line [to UBC] has some sound arguments. As a fan of transit, I think they’re great. But they’re second in line behind the Evergreen Line. The day Sam starts squawking about why the northeast sector should wait–again–is the day I look back to his website survey with complete cynicism.


Message from Mayor Sullivan regarding recent shootings

Like all residents, I am very concerned about the recent shootings that have taken place. We are taking this situation very seriously.

Late this afternoon I held a meeting with Chief Constable Jim Chu to discuss the issue of gang violence in our city. Yesterday I met with federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, and Chief Chu and I will be meeting with the federal Justice Minister tomorrow. In addition, I have written to the provincial government and will be meeting with mayors from Metro Vancouver next week to discuss ways to coordinate our efforts and attack organized crime.

I want to reassure residents that the men and women of the Vancouver Police Department are among the best in the world. They are working with our partners in the region to solve these crimes and bring these criminals to justice.

The solution to addressing these problems requires a coordinated and intelligent response. We will deliver that for our citizens.

– Mayor Sam Sullivan

Mayor’s Millennium Line Survey – Have Your Say

Mayor Sam Sullivan invites residents, businesses and community organizations to provide their views about plans to complete the Millennium Rapid Transit Line from VCC Station to Central Broadway – and ultimately UBC.

Disclaimer: this is a qualitative survey of website visitors. Results are not considered as scientific.

Child Sexual Abuse Treatment: BC Government Lies About Underfunding


Some lessons to heed from question period this week:

1. BC’s neoLiberal party abuses Freedom of Information requests to make themselves look good and justify leaving abused children vulnerable.

2. BC’s neoLiberal party has lied about the need for better funding for treating children who have suffered sexual abuse.

3. The installation of a Representative for Children and Youth last fall should be viewed in this new light.

4. The government should actually hold legislative sessions for public accountability.

5. Tom Christensen’s offices are just gorgeous [see above] with their new renovations using money that could have paid for child sexual abuse counsellors.

It was a sick, sick Halloween when in question period, Minister of Children and Family Development Tom Christensen tried to dance around being caught by the Times Colonist [see below] in redacting critical elements of a report, thus allowing the Ministry to deny providing poor service to child sexual abuse victims.

Christensen, with no sense of irony: “It’s unfortunate that the opposition is choosing to politicize this issue.”

Then NDP MLA Rob Flemming followed up the questioning, “Sadly, it isn’t the first time they’ve tried to cover up failings when it comes to protecting children. Last fall the opposition revealed an FOI which was sent inadvertently to the opposition, complete with handwritten sticky-notes. That FOI about child protection in the Coroner’s Service had a handwritten note from the Deputy Solicitor General asking for more severing because it ‘contradicts what we’ve said to this point.’ The FOI also showed the public affairs bureau has been given sign-off authority by this government.”

Christensen’s ass-covering reply: “I can tell you that the Ministry of Children and Family Development receives well over a thousand FOI requests each year. I have nothing to do with a single one of those, but in fact we have a piece of legislation that balances access to information with a number of other considerations.”

So much for ministerial responsibility. I know he doesn’t process FOI requests, but the minister is responsible for the ministry’s actions. Further, the FOI legislation isn’t designed for the government to sever information in FOIs that contradicts their public messaging to keep from appearing duplicitous.

Christensen, later: “I’m proud of what this government has accomplished for children and youth with mental health issues across this province — a child and youth mental health plan that is the envy of jurisdictions across Canada.”

I wonder if those jurisdictions envy the BC neoLiberals’ ability to redact documents to justify defunding child sexual abuse treatment programs.

And now I think back to last November when the government reluctantly decided to actually hold a legislative session to appoint a Representative for Children and Youth, a session that the NDP stretched out to a whopping 3 days. Knowing now that at that time the government was hiding the report that was critical of their funding of child sexual abuse treatment, maybe that helps explain why that Representative appointment was enough to justify actually holding a fall legislative session.

2006 report identified problems with B.C.’s child abuse programs
Lindsay Kines
Times Colonist
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The B.C. government has known for 18 months that its program to help sexually abused children is in trouble and needs help, documents obtained by the Times Colonist show.

Long before stories broke last spring about children waiting months for counselling, a review by the Ministry of Children and Family Development uncovered extensive problems with its Sexual Abuse Intervention Program (SAIP).

The April 2006 review concluded that the 47 agencies and societies helping abused children felt neglected, isolated and short-changed by government.

“Providers were unanimous in their view that program funding is insufficient to meet the needs for SAIP services,” the 26-page review stated.

The report said the program was a “critical element” of services related to child and youth mental health and “deserving of a more explicit focus.”

“There is a pervasive view among providers that the program has been neglected by government decision-makers over the past several years,” the report stated

The ministry blanked out those comments from a copy of the review released under the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

But the TC has obtained an unedited version of the report that shows many of the agencies complained about a lack of money for training, poor wages for counsellors, an inability to travel to provide services in remote geographic areas, isolation from decision-makers and deteriorating relationships over the past 10 years.

“A more intensive focus on sexual-abuse intervention programming should yield greater satisfaction among providers and improved access and quality of services for clients, resulting in a more consistent standard of care across the province,” the report said.

The province’s sexual abuse program made headlines last spring when Victoria’s Mary Manning Centre was forced to issue layoff notices to three part-time therapists because of a lack of funding. The subsequent publicity prompted public donations totaling more than $130,000 that allowed the centre to re-hire therapists and eliminate a waitlist for sexually abused children.

A TC investigation at the time found that other agencies were also struggling, that sexually abused children were waiting up to six months for treatment in some regions, and that the program’s budget had been frozen at $3 million for 17 years.

Children’s Minister Tom Christensen expressed concern last May that the budget had been frozen for so long.

“I’m asking my staff questions about that to see if it’s something we need to be looking at more closely,” he said.

The ministry’s review a year earlier, however, had already identified key areas requiring attention, including “establishing appropriate funding.”

“Providers maintain that funding has not kept pace with population growth, particularly in high-growth geographic areas, or inflation,” the review said.

Christensen said in an interview this week that he did not know all the details of the review last spring, though he was aware his ministry had been looking at the sexual abuse program. The review was done about five months before he was appointed minister.

“Having said that, quite frankly my answers in the spring wouldn’t have been any different,” he said.

Christensen said it’s no surprise that when the ministry surveys agencies to see if they have a shortage of cash, “you get the answer, ‘Yes, there is.'”

He noted the review found little consistency among how agencies run sexual-abuse counselling programs across the province, and stressed the need to establish standards before dealing with money matters.

“That’s the work that’s been underway for the las
t number of months,” Christensen said. Draft standards are ready for review, and the ministry recently held a training session on trauma counselling, he said.

“We are moving forward in terms of trying to ensure that this is an effective program and that the public can be assured of quality services, regardless of where they may access them in the province, and that there’s some consistency of standards,” he said.

Once that’s done, he hinted at a possible budget boost for the program in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. “I didn’t make any secret of it in the spring that I was surprised that the funding had been frozen, and I certainly am of the view that when people have suffered sexual abuse and we have effective counselling that can help them to deal with that, then we need to be working hard to make it available.”

Sears is into Union Busting in the Lower Mainland

Taking a cue from the morally-repugnant labour tactics of Vancouver’s NPA, Sears has locked out IBEW 213 after they refused a take-it-or-leave-it concession-filled contract without even bringing it to their membership.

Sears has also been involved in impeding unionization in Belleville in 2006.

I’m sure Sears will blame it on the strong Canadian dollar.

Service Technicians employed by Sears in the lower
mainland of BC were locked out on October 1, 2007
because they would not work under a collective
agreement that was imposed. Bargaining broke off
on September 27 when Sears demanded that the
Bargaining Committee either reject or accept the
offer right then and there prior to taking it to
their members. Sears locked them out On October 1,
first thing in the morning and then offered them a
chance to come in and work under the company’s new
agreement. The “agreement” contained many
concessions and was inferior to what the employees
had previously. These long term employees joined
the Union in 1997 because of poor management and a
constant chipping away at terms and conditions of
employment by Sears. They are represented by IBEW
Local 213. They are asking that others do not
patronize Sears until this dispute is resolved
regardless of where they live in Canada.

We are asking all of our members to show support
for these workers who are fighting for dignity and
respect by not doing any business with this unfair
employer. If you would like to express your
opinion to Sears management, call: 1-800-973-7579
(Sears President’s Line) or 1-800-469-4663.

Thank you for not shopping at Sears until this
dispute is resolved.

Children of Poor Families in NDP Ridings are Worth Less than Children in neoLiberal Ridings

“The provincial distribution goals were met.” – Minister of State for Childcare, Linda Reid, October 24, 2007.

I’m sure the government isn’t lying when they say that 53% of the 2,000 booster seats handed out to poor families in BC went to people in NDP ridings.

“We achieved geographic reach across British Columbia.” – Linda Reid

The seats were handed out only by neoLiberal MLAs at their constituency offices where elegant photo ops took place.

Only 5 booster seats were distributed through all of north Vancouver Island and none in Haida Gwaii, despite government offices that could have distributed seats.

The premier’s Point Grey riding is not filled with the poor. It wasn’t on the government’s list for provincial distribution. Yet the NDP found he had a photo of himself handing out a booster seat on his website yesterday, until they pulled it.

Linda Reid said during question period today that she regrets the distribution method, but says their goals were met.

It is clear their goal was more than just handing out booster seats to the poor.

Even if 53% did go to children in poor families in NDP ridings, the neoLiberal MLAs took the photo ops instead of distributing the seats through government agencies.

When a person in Surrey phoned the BCAA to see if they could get a booster seat, they were asked if their MLA was a neoLiberal. No seat was available for them.

“We do not believe that constituency offices are partisan.” – Linda Reid

While technically true that constituency offices represent all constituents regardless of who they voted for, when neoLiberal MLAs and the premier take pictures of themselves handing out booster seats, constituency offices are being politicized.

The End of "Mayor" Sam Sullivan

Welcome Peter Ladner, NPA’s next mayoral candidate.

Sam Sullivan has unofficially ended his term as mayor at 11:03AM today as CUPE announced a tentative settlement in North Vancouver. We have passed the tipping point in the regional dispute.

Sullivan’s strategy has been absurd, ill-conceived and ill-informed at best, arrogant and destructive at worst. In fact, however, it is not a new strategy: it has a historic [and historically foolish] basis: Boulwarism.

It’s all about rejecting bargaining entirely and starting “negotiating” with a final offer that won’t budge from threats or strikes. It inherently opposes the rights of workers to negotiate with management.

In light of the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent ruling that BC’s Bill 29 is illegal and that collective bargaining is protected under the Charter, “Mayor” Sam’s tactics are in the spirit of what the Supreme Court opposes, as are the abuses the HEU suffered earlier in the decade and BC teachers’ loss of the right to bargain wages, working conditions and class sizes.

But “Mayor” Sam is always right. Until he is embarrassingly wrong. Here’s how it looks today:


Richmond, Surrey, Delta, Burnaby and North Vancouver have got Vancouver surrounded with contracts that aren’t punitively designed to punish labour because it is organized. Vancouver has had the strength to bargain unfairly with the GVRD’s bargaining support, until now as the 5 largest municipalities around Vancouver have or will settle by tomorrow. Vancouver’s bargaining strength is virtually gone. Richmond and Surrey, that do not use the GVRD bargaining stick, helped set a pattern that the other 3 cities have recognized, and in doing so have constrained the GVRD’s scope to push Vancouver’s agenda and support Vancouver’s internal turmoil.

Keith Baldrey wrote in the Coquitlam Now on July 25, 2007, “the BC economy has undergone significant changes (forestry, while still big, is not the huge industry it once was) and the power of organized labour has diminished in the past two decades. …The economy is doing well, and employees consider themselves deserving of a bigger portion of that richer economic pie.”

The truth is broader though. Sure, the better economy means the workers ought to share in it. But the truth is that even when the economy was not so good in recent decades, corporate profits and management salaries have done well, often at the expense of workers, whose purchasing power today is close to half of what it was 30 years ago.

People often complain—especially during civic strikes like now–that union workers are lazy whiners who seek opportunities to strike while “real” workers in the private sector don’t have job security or finite hours of work or good working conditions. Their goal seems to be to make unionized workers have to suck it up and suffer the same kind of crappy jobs, wages, working conditions, hours of work and lack of protections that non-union workers are forced to endure.

Unions have spent the better part of two centuries agitating for change: weekends, a 40 hour work week [hopefully to decline further for quality of life concerns and higher meaningful employment rates], no children working 12-hour 7-day weeks in coal mines [except in BC now, thanks to Campbell’s neoLiberal regime, children as young as 12 can get their asses to work], overtime pay, holidays, vacations, health and safety provisions, etc. So many of these benefits have become so valued that society as a whole has adopted them into legislation: the Labour Code, minimum wages, collective bargaining rights to support democracy in the workplace. And now the Supreme Court has joined our side.

So while many non-union workers think unionized workers get too much, my question to them is don’t you deserve as much too? Why try to stop others from being treated with dignity at work because you aren’t. Should we all have a labour race to the bottom so we’re all back in sweatshops? Stop the insanity.

And as Baldry writes that the power of unions has declined, it is because unionization, particularly private sector unionization, has declined. Instead of trying to drag other workers down to lower levels of treatment, it’s time increase the level and breadth of unionization, particularly in the private sectors. Why aren’t bank workers unionized? They are often treated like moronic cogs on a product-shilling wheel while the big banks in Canada regularly post quarterly profits [not revenues!] in the billions?

Sam Sullivan doesn’t get it. Actually, he does get it. It’s just that he rejects it while claiming in his inaugural address to support it:

“Vancouver is blessed with highly skilled staff who maintain our status as the most liveable city in the world. Tightening labour markets will present challenges over the next five years to attract, retain and develop our work force. All of us should be grateful for the front line workers who serve us so well. Our recruitment theme ‘Powered by Innovation’ should be more than a slogan as we provide interesting and rewarding careers.”

Intelligent city councils surrounding Vancouver get it too and they don’t reject it. CUPE workers get it because they know they deserve to be treated with respect…as do all other workers, despite what our arrogant, anti-social premier and mayor believe.

So thanks for the memories, “Mayor” Sam Sullivan. Let your lame duck mayoralty begin.

And, Peter Ladner, the tide is turning. Remember that as you build your NPA leadership campaign.

Sam’s Strike: The Arrogance of the Man and “The Man”

It is clear to me that Sam’s Strike is all about the Vancouver mayor’s deluded sense of autocracy [see below].

While other municipalities are being lined up to support Vancouver’s mean-spirited refusal to bargain in good faith, we wait to watch how long Sam can go thinking that the world will actually revolve around him and his idea that through his immense, sheer will, thousands of people who are actually committed to building community will crack under his might and give in to his petty demands.

His mayoralty is a shame.

Vancouver is the only city in Canada that has had three strikes in the last decade. In a strong economy, to not reward public workers, but instead to demand job insecurity and a contract term to expire days after the Olympics ends is just plain mean. It’s also representative of the grand golden straitjacket of neoliberalism that erodes the social fabric we’ve spent generations building.

Talks with CUPE 15 break down, city fails again to bargain worker issues

[July 28, 2007 08:53 PM]

VANCOUVER – CUPE 15, the union representing striking Vancouver inside workers, returned to the bargaining table yesterday at 9:30 a.m. tabling a 5 year package that addressed Mayor Sullivan’s concern about labour stability through the Olympics, with an understanding that the city was prepared to deal with issues that were also important to the union.

Despite this CUPE 15 movement, the City of Vancouver once again refused to bargain and spent less than 2 hours and 22 minutes over a period of two full days speaking with the union. The rest of the time, the city committee “caucused” while union negotiators sat and waited.

“We knew something was wrong when we arrived at the table and the City of Vancouver did not even have their two top decision makers in the room or in the building,” says CUPE 15 president, Paul Faoro. “You would have thought that with a strike coming into its second week, civic services at a halt and nearly 5,500 Vancouver city workers on the street, that General Manager Mike Zora and City Manager Judy Rogers would have made it a priority to attend and negotiate a settlement. What else could be more important?”

“There is one thing I give the city credit for,” says Faoro. “Consistency. The City of Vancouver has consistently failed to bargain and continues to frustrate the process to this day.”

CUPE 15 presented a complete written package to the city for negotiation on Friday morning. The city refused to respond in writing to the proposal.

“Frankly, we have had enough of this circus, and we suspect the public has had enough too. What is it going to take for the city to realize that manipulation and game-playing is not going to bring about a collective agreement?” says Faoro. “How much does the public have to be inconvenienced and how long do our members have to walk the picket-line without a paycheque, unable to provide the services they are proud to deliver to the residents of Vancouver?”

CUPE 15’s chief negotiator, Keith Graham, says the city is still holding onto their “final offer”, tabled on July 9th, 2007. This is the same offer that union members voted down by an overwhelming 89% because it had takeaways and failed to address issues of importance to the union, like job security (no-contracting out language), improvements for auxiliaries, whistleblower protection and harassment resolution language.

Description of major CUPE 15 issues:

Contrary to common belief, CUPE 15’s current collective agreement has no language in it that protects Vancouver’s inside workers from contracting out. At any moment, the city of Vancouver can outsource whatever services they choose, eliminating jobs and compromising the quality and stability of public services. It is for this reason that CUPE 15’s primary concern is to negotiate language that provides them with job security through the term of the agreement.

“We recognize that is it reasonable for the city of Vancouver to secure labour stability through the Olympics, but it is also reasonable for city workers to seek job security,” says Faoro. “Mayor Sullivan and his management staff have given us no reason to trust that they won’t just contract out our jobs one-by-one over the next 5-years.”

Another major issue that the union would like to see addressed is improvements for auxiliary workers, whom have no right to be scheduled by seniority, no benefits, no statutory holiday pay and have gone from temporary and occasional work relief to a massive under-compensated labour pool. In parks, for instance, two-thirds of the workforce is made up of “auxiliary workers” who are kept in this position for years and years.

CUPE 15 would like to see more of these jobs converted into full-time jobs with benefits and negotiate improvements for remaining auxiliaries that include scheduling by seniority. Right now, management can and does decide to call into work an auxiliary with less than a day on the job over an auxiliary worker with 14 years service with the city.

The union has also made it a priority at the bargaining table to negotiate harassment resolution language and whistleblower protection – contract language that protects workers from discipline and/or job loss when they speak out on an issue of public concern, like water safety, equipment maintenance, safety procedures, etc.

Union package to city of Vancouver, July 27, 2007:

Using the contract ratified in Richmond as a starting point, CUPE 15 tabled a wage increase of 21 percent over 5 years that they clearly stated was negotiable. The package also included proposed benefit improvements and the above-mentioned priorities.

The city claimed that the union’s package amounted to a total cost of 30 percent and was not “affordable and reasonable”. Faoro says the city’s calculation is more “phantom costing” and just an excuse not to begin negotiations in earnest.

“It is frustrating to be at the bargaining table with people who clearly do not understand or are pretending not to understand how negotiations work,” says Faoro. “The idea is both sides present their position and you end up somewhere in between.”

Robin Jones, CUPE National representative and chief negotiator for CUPE 394 and CUPE 718,
the two Richmond locals that ratified a deal last week is available to comment to the media on the total cost of his committee’s initial proposal to the city, which he says began at about 40% cost to the city of Richmond.


“We asked for almost 12 benefit improvements, we agreed to only two in the end, glasses and dietician services. We asked for a $2 an hour shift differential, we agreed to only $1 an hour in the end. We asked for $1.50 an hour dirty pay, we agreed to 75 cents, we asked for 100 percent benefit coverage and we ended up with only 80 percent in the end and the list goes on,” says Jones. “That’s how negotiations work and today we have a signed collective agreement and both sides are happy. But you can’t get there if one party is not willing to negotiate.”

CUPE 15 represents Vancouver’s 2,500 inside city workers who normally work at city, parks, Ray-Cam, and Britannia Community Centre.