Lucky 13?

Unifor 567 Unit 5
4 min readFeb 2, 2021

We were scheduled to meet with our employer at the bargaining table today, for our 13th day at the table. But, after waiting around for over an hour, they let us know they wouldn’t actually be able to meet today.

So, instead, we spent our time whipping up this short update on where things stand.

Spoiler alert: it’s all kind of messy and uncertain and not actually that great.

I went to 40 hours of bargaining and all I got was this lousy t-shirt (so far) …

After 13 meetings and almost 40 hours of bargaining, here’s the complete list of things the union has proposed that our employer has agreed to:

  • They accepted our proposal to swap the day off on Remembrance day for the day off on Indigenous Peoples Day (so no actual increase in days off);
  • They’ve agreed we can approach them with requests to work out of office periodically, without any guarantee that they have to approve any such requests.

That’s it. That’s the entirety of our proposals that have been formally accepted by management.

There has been good progress on a number of other key issues, like discipline, benefits, and our pension plan. But, sadly, to date we haven’t actually finalized agreement on these articles. And we have agreed to a few of the employer’s proposals regarding the development of a new leave tracking system and changes to the joint labour-management committee.

Has our position changed since the start of bargaining?

It sure has. Quite a lot. Some key elements of our opening proposals that we’ve withdrawn in an effort to reach a deal at the table include:

  • Dropping from a 4% / year salary increase to 2% / year;
  • Withdrawing our proposal for the creation of a professional development fund, something our employer does not currently offer staff;
  • Withdrawing our proposal for an employment expenses discretionary fund, that would allow staff to make periodic small, non-essential purchases of things that would help us do our jobs better (ie. a task management app subscription). Again, this is something our employer does not currently have and would not benefit us personally, just allow us to do our jobs a bit better;
  • We dropped a proposal that would have erased about $5000 owed by staff to 4600 as a result of 4600 botching our taxes two years ago. We’ve been waiting more than a year for 4600 to uphold up it’s end of a grievance settlement on this issue, which they are required to do before staff repay the owed amounts;
  • We dropped a proposal that would have allowed our childcare benefit to accrue during vacation leave;
  • Withdrew significant elements of our discipline and benefits proposals.

Wages: Math vs. Myth

Management has said they can’t go above a 1.5% / year increase. Unfortunately, they have yet to provide any financial documents or other material to back up this position. What they have done is employ some of the classic management talking points about needing to build up an unused surplus so they’re ready for some undefined rainy day that never seems to actually arrive. Heck, it’s the same talking point Carleton uses against 4600.

We’ve said we’re not willing to go below 2% / year, so that our wages don’t decline relative to inflation and cost of living increases. We’ve provided detailed costing data on our full monetary package, a comparison with the employer’s proposals, and an assessment of 4600’s current financial status.

Discipline: Progress! But also a concession?!

There’s been good progress on this article! Our current collective agreement is really vague on how discipline operates, and both sides recognize the need for a more detailed description.

Unfortunately, CUPE 4600 continues to ask for a concession from us. They want to double the length of time that disciplinary letters are kept on our personnel files from 12 months to 24 months. 4600 has been very clear they do not intend to back off of this demand for a concession from us.

But just like CUPE doesn’t sign contracts containing concessions, we won’t either.

What happens next? Is a strike going to happen?

It’s too early to say if a strike will happen. But things are not looking good.

Our employer has indicated that, while they’ll think it over, a 1.5%/year wage increase is as high as they’re willing to go. And they’ve been very clear they won’t back down from demanding a concession on disciplinary letters.

On top of that, while there’s been good discussion and some progress on several other key issues, not much else of substance has been actually agreed to at this point.

We’re still very committed to reaching a deal at the table, but it increasingly feels like something may have to change to make that happen.

What can people do to support our fight for a fair deal?

  • If you are a current or former member of CUPE 4600, sign on to the Open Letter prepared by 4600 members;
  • Please share this update with your pals and comrades on social media, with a note saying you support a #fairdealfor5;
  • Stay tuned to this page or our Twitter and Fbook feeds for updates;
  • Use the nifty graphic on this page, made by former CUPE 4600 member Monika Thakkar, on your preferred social media platforms.

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