Friday, September 23, 2011

Breaking: B.C. Place workers schedule strike vote

B.C. Place Stadium's unionized workers were told Sept. 23 in a members' only meeting at the YWCA Hotel that talks with B.C. Pavilion Corporation have reached an impasse.

Local 1703 of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union has set Sept. 29 for a strike vote. If the membership agrees, then a strike would not happen for at least 72 hours.

The stadium's Sept. 30 reopening for the B.C. Lions vs. Edmonton Eskimos would not be affected. Could the Vancouver Whitecaps' first match in the Telus-sponsored downtown stadium on Oct. 2 against the Portland Timbers be disrupted by job action? If, in a worst-case scenario, Local 1703 gets an immediate mandate on Sept. 29 to exercise 72-hour strike notice, the countdown would end after the first Major League Soccer match at B.C. Place Stadium.

Empire Field would be a logical emergency backup for any Whitecaps or Lions games in October. BCGEU spokeswoman Karen Tankard said a strike is not desired. The union wants leverage to bring PavCo back to the bargaining table to achieve a new contract.

"There is no risk (of a strike on reopening night)," Tankard said. "We want B.C. to enjoy opening night, our members want to work and enjoy opening night.

"We don't want to go on strike, we want a fair collective bargaining agreement."

Sources tell me Local 1703 and PavCo have not held a scheduled bargaining session since breaking-off before dawn Sept. 8. Even then, mediator Mark Brown was shuttling back and forth between the bargaining teams in separate rooms. They weren't meeting face-to-face!

Brown has since met separately with the sides. No pay raise is being offered, as per the central government directive of pay freezes. Tankard said Local 1703 is willing to keep the same pay rates, but the dispute is about job security. She said Genesis Security now has 20 people doing jobs once done only by union members.

The union wants the new contract to contain anti-bullying language, but management is not budging. Premier Christy Clark, while a talkshow host at CKNW radio, led an annual province-wide anti-bullying campaign by selling pink T-shirts.

"(The Premier is) the Queen of Pink and her own Crown corporation is turning down anti-bullying language!" said one member who did not want to be identified.

The collective bargaining agreement expired May 31. The union includes 20 to 25 full-time staff, 30 part-timers and 300 event-specific staff.

In February 2005, BCGEU workers went on strike, delaying set-up for the annual boat show. Labour ministry intervention enabled settlement and prevented cancellation. Security guards, housekeepers, ushers and technicians approved a four-year deal in May 2007 with a 9.5 percent raise and signing bonus.

See the union members' update below.

More to come...

By the way... much confusion about the name of the new home of the Whitecaps and Lions. It will be sponsored by Telus. An announcement is expected before Sept. 30. But the only way the Whitecaps will play on a Bell Pitch again is if they're forced to return to Empire. Telus doesn't want its competitor to have a foothold in the stadium that it is both sponsoring and supplying.

BC Pavilion Corporation Bargainig Bulletin 23 Sept 11

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