CUPE Local 15 (Vancouver inside workers union) President Paul Faoro (left) and his very supportive mayor
Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of distraction stirred up by the Olympic Village controversy in Vancouver. During all this kerfuffle, one very important motion from the new labour-backed council with huge implications for Vancouver taxpayers all but slipped under the radar.
The motion was introduced today by former BC Federation of Labour Executive Director, now Vision Vancouver City Councillor Geoff Meggs. It calls for Vancouver to be removed from the Greater Vancouver Labour Relations Bureau (GVLRB). It was endorsed by all members of Council, with the exception of NPA Councillor Suzanne Anton.
Whatever amount CUPE poured into the campaigns of Vision candidates, whatever amount CUPE poured into public relations during the 2007 strike, whatever sacrifice thousands of their members withstood by not working for three months in '07, it all appears to have paid off big time with a veritable hat trick of accomplishments: Sam Sullivan and the NPA are wiped out, Judy Rogers is toast, and now the City is preparing to opt out of the GVLRB.
We can practically hear the corks popping at the CUPE offices tonight.
For those not familiar with the GVLRB, it is essentially the equivalent of a union for Metro Vancouver municipalities when it comes to negotiating labour contracts. You all know the saying, united we stand, divided we fall. That's why for years, almost all the municipalities in the region have collectively stood together when negotiating with the public sector unions.
For as long as the GVLRB has been around, CUPE has wanted to break it up. That's because negotiating with a strong, cohesive set of municipalities is much more difficult than playing one municipality off against another.
Admittedly, over the years, the GVLRB has lost some of its strength. When both Richmond and Surrey pulled out, it significantly weakened the bargaining position of the GVLRB. That became very evident in the last round of negotiations.
In past negotiations, there was a gentleman's agreement that the GVLRB would be allowed to complete their negotiations with the unions, prior to those municipalities outside the Bureau.
Things began to unravel during the 2007 negotiations when Mayor Brodie and Richmond City Council decided it was going to cut a deal with CUPE and settle in advance of the GVLRB. The Richmond deal then became the base for which CUPE continued negotiations with the remaining 20 or so municipalities. To this day there has been no explanation as to why Richmond broke ranks and settled first.
There was simply no way that CUPE was going to accept a penny less from the GVLRB, than they had accepted from Richmond, which equated to over 17.5% over the lifetime of the agreement. A deal that was considered too costly for many smaller municipalities to afford.
I should note the 17.5% wage package was signed by a municipality that collects millions of dollars of revenue from the province's largest gambling facility - River Rock Casino. Clearly not all municipalities were in the same financial position as Richmond.
Just imagine how costly some labour contracts will be in the future if all 22 municipalities begin negotiating separately with CUPE and other public sector unions. Each time an agreement is reached with one municipality, it will become the floor by which all others will be negotiated. Before long, this process will get very costly for taxpayers, and potentially very lucrative for the public sector unions.
That's why the motion quietly passed by Vancouver City Council today will have serious ramifications for the cost of future labour contracts in Metro Vancouver. With Vancouver out, the whole GVLRB will collapse leaving smaller municipalities to fend for themselves when it comes to labour negotiations.
As the unions know only too well, if the employer can divide them, they will be conquered. And the reverse is also true.
The public sector unions are likely rubbing their hands in glee that Vancouver Council has begun the process of shutting down a Bureau that was once considered the best safeguard to protecting taxpayers from outrageous labour demands. CUPE supported the new Vision/COPE Council, and now they've already scored more goals in Vancouver than Mats Sundin.