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NEWS RELEASE · 10th February 2015
Unifor Local 2300
Local 2300
February 10, 2015

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Kitimat (Our Employers)

Unifor Local 2300 and the District of Kitimat began bargaining on December 1, 2014 for the contract that was set to expire on December 31, 2014 at midnight. In previous contract years the parties have started the negotiations process at an earlier date, but what made things different this contract year was the amount of issues facing our members. So on December 1, 2014, we brought approximately ninety (90) demands to the bargaining table, where we made it clear that things have to change and that we intended to deadline bargain and we offered to go through the demands with them so that we would be able to provide them with any clarification that they may require, but they didnít feel that was necessary. The District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives said that they would need approximately two (2) weeks to respond.

In the meantime, on December 10, 2014, our Union requested Exempt Staff (Management) information, training protocols to be enacted for Exempt Staff (Management) and for the District of Kitimat's bargaining representatives to apply for Essential Services designation with the Labour Relations Board of British Columbia. The District of Kitimat's bargaining representatives refused to provide us with any of the information we requested and refused to apply for the Essential Services designation. They stated their reasons as good faith bargaining has not occurred yet. We responded to this refusal by assuring them that we made this request with the safety of our community in mind and that it is our wish to avoid a labour dispute, but a labour dispute is always possible with any set of contract negotiations so it is better to be proactive. The District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives again refused to provide us with any of the information we requested and refused to apply for Essential Services designation.

The District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives were finally ready to have our second bargaining meeting on or about December 17, 2014, but this meeting was just for some follow up clarification questions that they had about our demands. At this meeting we communicated to them that we are eager to start bargaining and we are willing to work right through Christmas and Boxing Day, evenings and weekends, whatever it takes to bargain a fair Collective Agreement for our members before the expiry date of December 31, 2014 at midnight. They responded stating that they are eager to start as well and would get back to us on meeting times. After this meeting, our bargaining committee came away with the feeling that they donít really understand our demands and that this could be problematic being that it is so late in the process. On December 18, 2014 the District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives communicated to us that the earliest they were willing to start actual face to face bargaining was on January 2, 2015, two days after the expiry of our contract. Obviously we were confused with this late change in attitude and inquired as to why we couldnít start right away. Their response was that it was unreasonable for us to expect them to be able to respond to a package this big in this short of a time period. We believed and still do that if they actually put the work into reviewing our material we would have been able to start bargaining by around December 14, 2014. Therefore later that day we sent out a notice for a special meeting with our membership, to give them an update and take a strike vote on December 22, 2014. It was a bit of an odd circumstance because we were calling for a strike vote before any good faith bargaining had even occurred, but as we explained to our membership, we wanted to force them to the bargaining table.

In the meantime, we contacted our Mayor to explain to him what has been happening and asked him if there was a chance that he could intervene and help us avoid a labour dispute. Through these discussions with the Mayor we conveyed to him that we didnít have confidence in the District of Kitimatís bargaining representativeís abilities to properly explain our demands to Council and that it wouldnít be in anyoneís best interest to have a labour dispute without knowing the facts. So we requested a meeting with our Town Council to explain our demands to them ourselves. On or about the weekend after our strike vote passed we had our meeting with our Town Council and we were able to go through our bargaining demands and answer whatever questions were posed to us. We were thankful for this meeting as it was the first time in the fifty (50) plus year bargaining relationship with our Town that we have ever had the chance to meet directly with our Town Council about bargaining.

Seeing how the sequence of events that had transpired after our strike vote had passed, we determined as a goodwill gesture not to serve 72 hour strike notice and gave the District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives some time to meet with Council to, as they put it, get direction for their bargaining mandate. So we actually started face to face bargaining on January 8, 2015.

After the better part of a month of face to face meetings that accomplished very little in the way of progress, we were only able to get agreement on some twenty one (21) items. The majority of these items are minor housekeeping changes and resigns to existing Letters of Agreement.

We have reached a point where we are very frustrated that District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives have refused to even speak on a number of our issues and in our opinion they have not responded adequately to others.

We found that we were starting to bargain with ourselves in an unsuccessful attempt to get them engaged, so on January 30, 2015 we presented the District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives with an Offer to Settle negotiations and we made it very clear again that if they want to avoid a labour dispute as we do, they have to start taking our issues seriously and actually start to bargain.

The District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives responded to us on February 3, 2015 with their Offer to Settle negotiations. After careful review of their offer, we determined that they are in no way willing to address our issues and after over a month without a Collective Agreement, we needed to take another strike vote as sort of an internal temperature check so that we could serve the District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives with seventy two (72) hour strike notice. We viewed this as a tool to get them to take our issues seriously at the bargaining table.

The next day on February 4, 2015 the District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives filed a complaint with the Labour Relations Board of British Columbia, claiming that our Union was in violation of the Labour Code for not giving our members forty eight (48) notice for a strike vote and the District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives finally applied for Essential Services designation. Seeing how this was our actual second strike vote, we felt that we are in compliance with the Labour Code, but in order to avoid a long dragged out Labour Board dispute process, we put out a notification to our members for a strike vote for February 6, 2015.

In the meantime the District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives explained that the reason they had filed the complaint is because they were worried that we were going to go on strike before the Essential Services designation was sorted out.

Our Union made it clear that we werenít even going to consider actually walking off the job until the Essential Services designation was sorted out, as it was our Union that tried to initiate the Essential Services protocols back in December.

On February 5, and 6, 2015 our Union met with the District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives to continue to try and get them to discuss our memberís issues. On the afternoon of Friday February 6, 2015 during our face to face meeting, we requested that the District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives withdraw their Labour Board complaint because the weather was getting very bad and we didnít want to have our members travelling in unsafe conditions to have to come vote and we didnít want our other members to stop operating the equipment that was servicing our community, which would allow for our previous strike vote to stand and as we committed to previously we wouldnít even serve seventy two (72) hour strike notice if necessary until after the Essential Services designation was complete. They agreed, but when their lawyer sent notification of the complaint being withdrawn to our lawyers, their wording left an opening for them to re-open the complaint.

So we will be holding another strike vote on February 12 and 13, 2015. After face to face meetings concluded on Friday February 6, 2015 and a plan to meet face to face on Saturday February 7, 2015, our Union leaders did a survey of our town to try and grasp the magnitude of the storm and the impact it was having on our community.

After this short survey our Union contacted the District of Kitimatís bargaining representatives and informed them that our Union was suspending bargaining so that the four members of our bargaining committee who work at the Public Works Yard could go back on the job and help out in this state of emergency before we lose the town.

Our Union would like to give a big thank you to all of our memberís families for understanding that it was necessary for our members to put the needs of our community before their own. Many of our members literally worked around the clock to save our community and didnít even have the chance to respond to their own familyís needs.

There has been a lot of discussion about our membershipís ability to respond to this storm and our contract negotiations. Some of the demands that we have for bargaining revolve around securing an adequate number of bargaining unit positions within the District of Kitimat to prevent further cutbacks in the amount of employees.

Even though our contract expired over a month ago, our Union has responded to our communityís crisis with the full force of our membership working around the clock with the equipment that was available to them.

Is there a possibility that our Town could respond better to a crisis like this in the future? Absolutely, but our membership should hold their heads up high as we did everything possible with the amount of bargaining unit members we have and the equipment we operate.

We would also like to give a big thank you to the rest of our community for helping out in every way that you could.

In closing, we feel that a full blown investigation into this state of emergency and our communityís ability to respond to it is absolutely necessary so that we donít find ourselves under-manned and under-machined again.


Unifor Local 2300
the reality
Comment by jose da silva on 21st February 2015
the union and membership are one, thus they are indivisible.
the union negotiates taking direction from the membership.the membership decides what must
be or not to be.
the company has the power. they pay you,
own the equip you work with, the ground you walk on, the building you have lunch in, and you.
the only power a working person has to limit the
nearly total power of the company, is the labor code.
{which came about by bloody battles between labour & capital }
w.c.b regs, again brought to you by the labour mov"t
the contract, which is negotiated by the union on behalf of the membership.
when problems arise between the party's during the life of a contract the gov"t mandates that it must go to the grievance procedure. this is to the great satisfaction of the company, for now they can play silly bugger games, knowing full well that this procedure is blessed by the gov"t and no strike would be tolerated.
at the end of the contract, the membership finally can expect to have their wrongs addressed,for now the have the legal power to withdraw their labour.
this power is greatly feared by capital. labour is under constant attack, but the truth is simple.
it is not labour that is destroying this great country that we built, it is not labour that is destroying our health care,education, social safety net, it is capital with ultra= profit and ultra=low taxes , and 0 social responsibility. the gov"t has by their actions decided that corporate welfare and union bashing
is the order of the day. wake up! we fight for all of you.

RE: Rory Brown
Comment by Ralph Bartel on 16th February 2015
Ahem, Rory I did sign my last name just read my comment again. The other two comments with my first name are others directed at me. Apology accepted.
Comment by Rory Brown on 15th February 2015
First of all, I am a union worker. To all of you people that live in Kitimat, and like it here, you should like unions too. Unions have made it possible to have the lives we have here. Wages and benifets just to mention a couple. Yes, without the industry there would be nothing at all here, but unions have given us better quality of lives.
Second, Ralph. I could only agree more with you if you put your last name! In my opinion, like it or not, people should not be alowed to post comments without their full names. Kitimat is not the type of place you need to hide behind some BS names on here. Its not like someone is going to track you down in the streets for having an opinion. So to anyone that would like to comment on what I have said, if you agree with me or not, my full name is clearly there for you to see. But if you do comment, be sure to do the same.
Comment by kitimat first on 14th February 2015
if it wasn't for anonymity Ralph how many responses would there have been...its about discussion and ideas that's all ! as long as threats, bigotry and idiotic ideas are left out who cares, it doesn't make me less of a man/woman than you just cause you left your name, it also doesn't label someone for something they've said...and you know kitimat.
re Ralph
Comment by PG on 14th February 2015
There are many reasons why many prefer to remain anonymous Ralph and has nothing to do with standing up as a man or a woman. Some people work in the public and taking sides can create negative back lash. Other people have lived through difficult child hoods involving abusive parents that kicked the self esteem and confidence out of them leaving them scarred for life. That's where I'm from Ralph. I live a some what normal life, I've got a good job, I'm doing ok in spite of it all. My idea of a man is someone who is a provider for his house hold, and would give his life to protect his own. Helps his neighbors, treats strangers with respect and dignity. Gentle, not intimidating, has nothing to do with size, and could easily be 90 pound soaking wet, but God help anyone that threatens his family. Holly wood has brainwashed society into thinking men should be muscle bound jocks that meet in bars at the end of a day, loud and opinionated with no fear. I don't subscribe to that short sighted and superficial view and prefer to live a quiet life and rather than attract attention to myself I would rather focus on the topic being discussed in these articles.
Not signing comment
Comment by Ralph Bartel on 13th February 2015
Whether your comments are in a positive or negative perspective can all contributors sign with their name and not with initials or anonymous. What are you all trying to hide from? If you deem it necessary to comment at least be man or woman enough to stand by your choice of words. Sad that you all have to hide.
Loyalty only goes so far
Comment by PG on 13th February 2015
There's no question that it must be nice and comfy having a union job, but has anyone besides me heard a buddy in need of some plumbing work hire someone non union because the union plumbers were too expensive? well there's your union loyalty I guess.....personally I don't blame them. The union is too bloody expensive.

Comment by dj on 13th February 2015
To the anti union folk out there:

If it wasnt for unions, there would be no minimum wage, overtime, maternity leave, sick days and safe working conditions. These are only a few to name. All the anti union employees have reaped the rewards of other unions after their hard work fighting for their employees via the government being lobbied by unions. If it wasnt for unions child labour and so many other unacceptable working conditions would still be acceptable.

We are fortunate and blessed to have unions; the middle class would not exist if it were not for unions.

Just a couple of thoughts
Comment by Doug Read on 13th February 2015
OK five thoughts having read the feedback.
1) District Workers are protected. They face no competition. This is unlike 99% of the rest of us. Every business in town has to deal with the obvious fact that if you are not the best at what they do then they lose. Is there any recognition from the Union that this is a great place to be? What price a job for life?
2)We seem to being asked to accept that a small group of people can hold the town hostage. And that this is something to be proud about.
3)I have read a handful of very reasonable Union issues. I truly hope these are addressed. That still leaves me wondering about the other 80! Can the Union tell us the whole list please?
4) Let me address the strike issue head on. Strikes don't really hurt 'management' They will still be there whatever the outcome. Who do they hurt? The most vulnerable, kids, old folk and other hard working people. These are all people who the Union claims it supports. The hypocrisy will run knee deep I'm looking forward to the Union's 'we had no choice' communication! Of course they have a choice. How about keep working and continue negs!? They will get their contract, might take a couple of months. Is that so much to ask?
5) For those Union apologists out there who don't think they are being used. I promise you from bitter experience, as Union membership drops generally they become more militant and defensive. They think everyone is out to get them. This just isn't true but they will make your life misery until some sanity and balance is restored.
Out lived its usefulness
Comment by PG on 12th February 2015
Never been part of a union and never will, its true that back in the day we needed unions to back the worker but the workers today are educated and we have rights in place. If someone finds their job is in jeopardy, usually its because they have screwed up and deserve it. We have other means available to prepare for retirement other than union pensions believe it or not. Unions just drive prices up for everything and that hurts us all. Its a big boys club for those school yard bullies that are now trying to impress themselves and others with their new political speak. I love those show of hands votes that go on during their meetings, it takes a lot of courage to raise your hand in opposition to a popular vote with all those big loud Union dudes strutting about working the crowds. Get those hydrants dug out and be thankful you have a job.
egotistical union bashers
Comment by kitimat first on 12th February 2015
in my 30 years of working in unions I've never ever heard anyone ever say they wish they could forgo being a member ! people that bash unions are envious of the gains we attain as a group in work,environment, monetarily and health, people that bash unions are people who are egotistical and self centred...! where do these union bashers think weekends off, better work conditions and most importantly human rights originated from ? that's right unions... do you believe a multi national such as RTA or any corporation is going to come out every year and hand out raises and worry about your health and welfare at their's such as this are worried about the bottom line, and the bottom line is their pocket not yours... their pockets ! so to all you self centered egotistical union bashers, a union might not work for you since your an egotist but for the majority of us it works, oh and we'll keep fighting for you to ! as far as the men and women from the DoK works yard not only are you appreciated year round your efforts on Feb 5/6, 2015 were fantastic and very much appreciated ! together as one.
How quick some are to judge...
Comment by Cliff Madsen on 11th February 2015
First off I`d like to say that there is no distinction between the workers and their Union, the workers are the Union. Why would anyone question the right of the workers to have their voices heard in collective bargaining and who are we to tell them what or how many issues they are allowed to raise?
The point you should be raising is why the wonderful district workers have the need to put 90 demands in and maybe you`ll find out what is really going on at the District of Kitimat, you might be surprised!
A close read of the article above will show you that the Union`s efforts to arrive at a fair settlement have been conducted in an honest and forthright manner. On further review you will also see that the Union`s best efforts have been met with the District`s disregard for the process along with a reluctance to engage the Union in meaningful discussions about very important issues that need to be addressed.
These aren`t the flashy issues that detractors usually focus on like wages, I`m talking about things like putting health and safety language into a contract that has none, putting training language in place so we ensure our workers can perform work safely, language to protect workers from harrassment and abuse on the job, providing workers with protective clothing for the things they`re exposed to on the job, having the employer take care of their employees and pay the premiums for their long term benefits when they get sick.
So the issue isn`t whether there are 10 demands or 90, the issue is about the substance of the demands and in this case the workers at the DOK are one voice in saying that the time has come to fix this workplace and make significant improvements to their collective agreement.
Do you think the roads and hydrants didn`t get cleared because we have too many workers or too much equipment?
Management decisions to reduce the workforce, surplus equipment and not provide succession training to ensure skills are maintained has resulted in the limitations on our ability to respond to critical events such as last week.
I join the workers and their Union in calling on our elected leaders to do an honest and thorough investigation into recent events and challenge themselves to find ways to provide the services we have become accustomed to in Kitimat.
Comment by Emar on 11th February 2015
Shame on the District of Kitimat and Unifor Local 2300. You are both using our lives as a negotiating tool. Snow removal has been unacceptable all winter, who put in the 1x a day rule? We have had this much snow in the past and it was never an issue. The trauma of these few days and future issues will not be forgotten. To feel stranded, helpless and in danger is something we have never experienced before. What you can do is not raise our taxes this year for how you have treated the citizens of Kitimat and we might forgive you!

very sad and worried
Comment by J.Cruijff on 11th February 2015
Excellent whine now let's hear from the other side.
Open Letter...
Comment by Leon Dumstrey-Soos on 11th February 2015
Open letter indicates that there is an EMERGENCY created by the heavy snow fall thus Safety and Health of Citizens is endangered.

True , accordingly this situation then supersedes all other priorities ,excuses and reasoning listed.

Fact remains that 6 days after the storm fire hydrants are still buried, (which continues to put all citizens at risk not only members.)

There is no evidence that during the nights any effort is made to expose fire hydrants .
I thought we are talking about EMERGENCY..and it is snowing again today....
An alternative POV.
Comment by Doug Read on 11th February 2015
OK first a confession. I come from the UK where I do blame the Unions for bringing the country to it's knees in the 70's and early 80's. So no I'm not a natural fan! Let me quickly add that I am a big fan of our District Workers. In the 6 years I have been here I think they have done a WONDERFUL JOB and I respect their skills and abilities. I have been so very grateful to see John (he knows who that is) plowing my road. I can't tell you how great that is to see. So there you are, I'm a fan! So why the title to this message? OK I question presenting 90 'demands' to the District. Jesus Christ on a bike, 90, are you sure Love to see the Union respond to 90 demands from me about their service. Truth, as we all know, is that the majority would be dismissed. 90! Really Try 10 that matter! Is it not true that Kitimat District workers are the best paid in BC? Either true or not? When one of the private contractors pointed out that they had helped clear half the roads in town, they were accused of 'Union bashing'! Words fail me. So here's the summary, our District Workers do fab things for us, but for some reason the Union is so defensive it is equally guilty of tearing the town apart. There you go, start blasting!!
Comment by Charlotte Gorden on 10th February 2015
I think the District employees did a great job, especially under those circumstances, and sincerely thank you for your hard work!