Myths and Facts II – The World According to Jan


July 25, 2017

CUPE 1816 and Pacific Blue Cross

Myths and Facts II – The World According to Jan

On July 17, Pacific Blue Cross President and CEO Jan Grude wrote a letter to Ms. Diane L. Wood, president of the BC Federation of Retired Union Members. The letter, which purported to clarify several issues related to the labour dispute, included several inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and half-truths:

Myth: “Pacific Blue Cross did not lock out our employees.”

Fact: On June 30, PBC’s Vice-President of Human Resources, Rob Chiarello wrote an e-mail to all bargaining unit members, saying the following: “If the union decides to pull a staff member, the duration of the leave will be for the remainder of the week.” According to Section 1 of the BC Labour Relations Code, a “lockout” is defined as follows:

closing a place of employment, a suspension of work or a refusal by an employer to continue to employ a number of his or her employees, done to compel his or her employees or to aid another employer to compel his or her employees to agree to conditions of employment

Mr. Chiarello’s e-mail made clear that the Employer was suspending work in order to compel employees to agree to the Employer’s conditions of employment. Since June 30, the Employer has never retreated from its position that any member who participates in job action will be locked out until the following week.

Myth: “As this is CUPE’s choice and not that of management to be absent from work, we consider this to be strike action.”

Fact: Further to the above, it should be noted that it was the Employer that insisted on an all-or-nothing approach to this labour dispute, and not “CUPE’s choice”. As well, the Employer’s decision to impose unilateral changes to existing conditions of employment—such as by cancelling sick time, flex time and family responsibility leave, and by refusing to collect and remit union dues or recognize seniority in promotions—can only be seen as a deliberate attempt by the Employer to provoke the union on the one hand while denying responsibility for the resulting job action on the other.

Myth: “Current retiree benefits are not sustainable.”

Fact: Current service costs for all retiree benefits for CUPE members amount to less than two per cent of total payroll. The changes sought by PBC amount to less than one per cent of total payroll in savings.

Myth: CUPE 1816 is not willing to bargain while PBC is.

Fact: CUPE 1816 is willing to bargain, and has bargained extensively since September 2016. This round of negotiations has been driven by Employer demands for concessions, and the Employer has not presented a case to justify the concessions it is seeking to our members’ retiree benefits. CUPE 1816 is prepared to bargain as soon as the Employer is prepared to modify its position on retiree benefits. There has been no contact from the Employer regarding bargaining since July 7.

Myth: PBC is transparent in its negotiations with CUPE 1816.

Fact: In claiming that PBC is in financial difficulty, Grude claims in his letter that the Financial Institutions Commission expects PBC to reverse “the trend” of its operating losses. When asked to produce documentation to substantiate this claim, the Employer has thus far refused.