Collective Bargaining Update
Last week, on November 27, after attempting to engage in meaningful discussions with NRC on the Final Offers, the RCEA Management Committee and representatives of all Bargaining Committees, decided to decline these offers. The offers included wage increases for the CS, OP, PG and TO Groups of 2.3% in 2007-2008 and 1.5% in each of the next three years. For the AD and AS Groups, the wage increases were 1.5% per year for three years starting in 2008-2009. Also in the offers was the demand that the OP, PG and TO Groups agree to a 35 day cap on vacation leave carry-over with a 10 day per year drawdown for any member with more than 35 days in their carry over bank. For the AD and CS Groups, who already have a 35 day cap, the demand was for the 10 day per year drawdown. The AS Group already has these provisions. For all groups except the AS Group, these demands represent significant reductions in benefits.
The RCEA was prepared to accept the wage offers for all groups. We were even prepared to consider the cap on vacation carry over. All attempts to negotiate the drawdown were met with refusals from NRC, until the very last minute, when it became apparent that the Government’s Economic Statement would not include such provisions.
Representatives of the RCEA deliberated long and hard about these offers. At the end of the day, it was felt that we could not, in good conscience accept these provisions. As it turned out, on November 27, the Government did announce the imposition of the very same wage controls but without any changes to current collective agreement language, as well as the removal of the right to strike. As none of the RCEA bargaining units are on the strike route, this part of the announcement does not directly affect the RCEA. We do stand, however, with our public service union colleagues, in denouncing this proposal. The right to collective bargaining and the right to strike are fundamental elements of Canadian democracy.
The situation remains extremely fluid. It was reported today that the Finance Minister has changed his mind about removing the right to strike. While this is good news for the Canadian labour movement, we have still to determine exactly how any legislative change will affect the RCEA. We are monitoring the situation and are seeking more information about any other proposed legislative changes. In the meantime, it is our interpretation that collective bargaining can continue on non-wage issues.
We have received many emails from members, some urging us to accept whatever was offered and others urging us to stay the course. As stated earlier, the RCEA on behalf of its members was always prepared to accept the lesser wage offers. However, we were reluctant to be intimidated into accepting other concessions under pressure through last-minute offers from NRC. Based on the state of current information, it now appears that we will have these wage increases, but hopefully will be able to return to the bargaining table to address other issues of concern to the RCEA and the NRC.
We appreciate the support we have received from all members and we will continue to work for the best deals possible for all members.