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RMOW facing unfair labour charges

The Canadian Union of Public Employees has filed two unfair labour charges against the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

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The charges, which were filed with the Labour Relations Board last week, come on the heels the RMOW’s 14 utilities workers joining the union in April.

That union already includes the municipality’s 10 bylaw enforcement officers and seven wastewater treatment plant workers who operate under a collective agreement.

Robin Jones, CUPE national representative, said one of the labour charges deals with the RMOW allegedly altering the conditions of employment for the utilities workers since they joined the union.

The union is arguing that working conditions are now arbitrary and unfair and the municipality is applying the collective agreement on a piecemeal basis.

"Half of their working relationship is non-union, half of it is union," said Jones.

"Basically what they’ve done is said, ‘OK, the things that are worse for you in the collective agreement are being applied, the things that are better are not.’ And that is contrary, in our view, to the Labour Code."

Kathy Wallace, general manager of human resources at the municipality, disagrees with that charge.

"That’s not really the way we see it," she said, explaining that the municipality has eight years experience working with the same collective agreement for its bylaw officers and wastewater treatment employees.

But Jones said the workers should not be under the collective agreement at all at this point.

"We say they’re out of the collective agreement until I bargain them in," he said.

The second labour charge was filed on behalf of one of the utilities workers who Jones alleges was not recalled to work because he had signed a union card.

Wallace had no comment on this charge.

"I haven’t actually sat down with the union to find out what that issue is," she said.

Jones said that in addition to these two charges he also has a problem getting Whistler to the bargaining table.

After a new group of workers is organized, it has four months to enter into the collective agreement.

If it can’t be done within that time period then the employer can lawfully impose conditions.

"What we’re finding is that the resort municipality is employing some rather unique and distasteful and petty procedures to delay and/or thwart those efforts," said Jones.

The parties will not be sitting down to the negotiating table until close to the end of July, which is nearing the end of the four-month period.

"Having one date available to bargain in three months – nobody is that busy," said Jones.

"We’re unfortunately not optimistic of this being a non-confrontational round of bargaining."

Wallace said this is just a normal procedure. Both sides have been communicating back and forth since May trying to come up with dates.

"That’s a fairly normal process trying to get a number of people with free dates in their calendar," she said.

Both sides were meeting Thursday for an informal meeting on the first labour charge.

Wallace said: "I’m just looking forward to establishing a relationship and moving forward."

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