CUPE 389

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Frequently Asked Questions


We encourage you to first speak to a Shop Steward in your workplace.  If you don’t know who that is, you can call the Unit Representative for your bargaining unit (Employer).  You can find their contacts by bargaining unit on the Contact page, or by following this link

Please speak with a Shop Steward or your Unit Rep first.  You can find your Unit Rep here.  You can also call the Union Office directly at the numbers provided on that page and ask to speak to the President.  

No, the grievance requires the aggrieved party to consent to a grievance since the remedies often have to be specific.  For example, if you are alleging that someone was promoted unjustly over you, the Union cannot file a policy grievance – it is specific to you and any possible remedy has to be specific to your promotion.  Therefore, it is not a good idea for the Union to file grievances without the full cooperation and participation of the grievor.  

Members have a right to file a grievance, but not the right to pursue a grievance all the way to arbitration.  The Union’s elected officers, lawyers and staff, will decide if the grievance has any prospect for success based on merits of the grievance.  Sometimes members will disagree with our decision – at which point they may appeal the decision and appear before the Executive Board to present their case.  At that time, the Union may seek an opinion from the National Union on the prospects of success for the grievance, which will also be made available to the Executive Board. 

This is a change in policy to our past procedures where the members could appeal the decision not to proceed with a grievance directly to the membership of the Union.  This exposes the grievance to possible violations of privacy regulations and also makes the process subject to a popularity contest of who can bring more supporters to the Union meeting.  Having the Executive Board instead make the decision assures a more level-headed decision that protects the membership from costly and lengthy arbitrations and other legal proceedings that may not be just or would be an unnecessary cost with no prospects for success. 

Speak with a Shop Steward or call our office.  For Bullying & Harassment, we encourage the members to go through the Employer’s Respectful Workplace Policy.  The policy usually provides for a mechanism initiated by a written complaint usually to the Head of HR.  The Employer will then conduct an investigation and the Union will be invited to participate and represent all parties (if it is harassment allegation of member on member).  Once the investigation is concluded, if the Union does not agree with the outcome, we can file a grievance. 

Union Administration

You don’t.  If you have an objection to being a member of the Union by virtue of your employment with the Employer, you can claim something called “Rand Formula Exemption”, for example, for moral, religious, or other reasons.  Contact us if this is what you’d like to do. 

However, you would still be required to pay dues to the union same as all members, because you benefit from the collective agreement and enter the job with provisions and benefits and wages having been negotiated by the union for almost 100 years.  You inherit privileges other workers have paid for with their work, volunteer efforts, dues, service and struggle.  The most important of the protections you get as a unionized worker is a right to due process. 

This doesn’t seem like a big deal – most of us take it for granted – but there is no obligation in the law for an employer to treat you in any particular way other than as provided for by the Employment Standards Code minimum legislation which provides for at will employment – meaning if you are a non-unionized employee, you can be terminated at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all, except for a reason prohibited in human rights legislation, OHS legislation and similar.  This has humourously been interpreted by some Employment lawyers as “you can’t be fired for being white, but you can be fired for driving a white car.”  In other words, the employer can’t fire you for given reason of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., but can terminate you at will – and only have to pay you the minimum in lieu of notice severance, OR, provide you the notice and the opportunity to work the notice period.  Other exceptions apply should you seek Common Law Remedies, since the judges apply a different principle called “The Commonlaw of Master/Servant Relations” – and tend to award higher severance, but to access this, you have to sue.  There is no expedited process to a common law remedy. 

A unionized employee has a right to “just cause” in discipline, and protections of the negotiated collective agreement.  That means that the worker who is a part of a union is actually collectively working under an agreement negotiated by the Union for the term of the agreement – and severing such employee from the Bargaining Unit requires the Employer to demonstrate, if needed to a third-party neutral arbitrator, that they have enough/sufficient/just cause or reason for why the discipline was given or termination affected. 


CUPE Locals have the greatest autonomy of any Union organization in Canada.  The Local sets its own dues structure, (determines what the dues are above the mandatory 0.85% which is paid to the National Union), elects its own executive board and officers, and controls its own revenues and expenditures beyond the affiliation dues.  

It formulates its own policy, members have a right to vote on all expenditure items, approve or vote down a budget, and pass motions at regular membership meeting to direct the functioning of the Union, as provided in the Bylaws. 

CUPE structure is therefore an inverse pyramid – at the top are the members, below them are the Local Executives, and below them is the CUPE National Union, which employs 740 staff persons and only has 2 full-time elected officers.  The staff are all engaged in direct servicing work, research or legal representation, and the National Union only coordinates the policy passed by the delegates from all the Locals to the bi-annual national convention, and does not set its own policies.  

This means CUPE Locals affiliate directly to the National Union and elect the National Union officers.  Membership in the Provincial CUPE BC Division is optional, but our Local is a member for good reason – the Division coordinates all our political lobbying, engagement and government relations, media relations, strategy and other important work done politically and in communities to promote our work, protect our work, improve our communities, elect representatives, councillors, members of the legislative assembly and members of parliament who support workers and common people and work to make life better for all. 

Workers Compensation/Worksafe/WCB

Unfortunately, the Union does not provide WCB advocacy.  We do not have appropriate liability insurance and the members have in the past elected not to pay for this service.  Therefore, you will have to use the WCB Workers’ Advocacy Office 

Visit for their office locations and contact numbers. 

The Union does, however, have a specially-trained person who can assist you in filling out the forms and give you general advice only – Amir Bagheri.  You can find his contact info under the Contact Us page. 

All workers in BC are part of a special arrangement made a long time ago between the Government and Employers.  Under this arrangement, an employee may not sue an employer in the Courts.  The Courts have no jurisdiction in matters of workplace injury.  In return, all workers are covered automatically through WCB, and the Employers must pay premiums for the insurance coverage.  The workers give up the right to sue the employers, but in return get mandatory insurance coverage.  To obtain benefits, once a worker is injured, they have to make a claim with WCB and go through the adjudication process to determine the legitimacy of their claim, possibly to rehabilitate their injury and to be retrained for different work.  If no other options are possible, the worker can eventually get to a place where they receive pay-out for their injury and/or pension in lieu of employment, where the worker will receive wage replacement benefits from WCB approx 90% or more of their pre-injury salary.  However, WCB does not generally include losses of benefits or pensions.  

Unfortunately, only the School District unit presently has LTD coverage.  All our other Units do not.  We have tried to bargain this benefit in the past unsuccessfully.  We would like to tell you that you have LTD coverage, but this is not the case presently except for the SD members, and we need more member support and engagement and possibly job action, in order to force our employers to provide us either an LTD plan they pay for, or at least to administer the plan paid for by the members.  Previously, they have refused both options.

You may qualify for Provincial Disability Income Support or Social Assistance (welfare) as a last resort, you can visit


Progressive discipline is a legal concept that emerges in labour law that states that it would be unfair and unjust for an employee to be discharged or disciplined (depending on the misconduct) without first being given an opportunity to correct their behaviour, and without being warned that such behaviour may lead to further discipline or termination of employment. 

Progressive discipline has its limitations – the employer can terminate for very serious misconduct immediately – such as theft, violence or threats.  For most other forms of misconduct, such as being late, for example, the employer is first required to warn, provide assistance and coaching if necessary to improve performance and understand consequences, and then progressively issue discipline that normally follows the course of warning letter – suspension – suspension of a few days – suspension of multiple days – termination.

Progressive discipline does not follow a script.  Managers are supposed to weigh the aggravating factors vs the mitigating factors.

Generally, arbitrators, and in turn Human Resources personnel, will use the list of factors as expressed in the seminal case on the issue Steel Equipment Co. (1964):

1. The previous good record of the grievor.
2. The long service of the grievor.
3. Whether or not the offence was an isolated incident in the employment history of the grievor.
4. Provocation.
5. Whether the offence was committed on the spur of the moment as a result of a momentary aberration, due to strong emotional Impulses, or whether the offence was premeditated.
6. Whether the penalty imposed has created a special economic hardship for the grievor in the light of his particular circumstances.
7. Evidence that the company rules of conduct, either unwritten or posted, have not been uniformly enforced, thus constituting a form of discrimination.
8. Circumstances negativing intent, e.g. likelihood that the grievor misunderstood the nature or intent of an order given to him, and as a result disobeyed it.
9. The seriousness of the offence in terms of company policy and company obligations.
10. Any other circumstances which the board should properly take into consideration, e.g., (a) failure of the grievor to apologize and settle the matter after being given an opportunity to do so; (b) where a grievor was discharged for improper driving of company equipment and the company, for the first time, issued rules governing the conduct of drivers after the discharge, this was held to be a mitigating circumstance; (c) failure of the company to permit the grievor to explain or deny the alleged offence.

Call the Union Office immediately, or contact your Unit Rep.  We will arrange for you to be represented at your investigative meeting.  Remember, an investigative meeting is not the same as a grievance meeting.  The Employer has a right to ask you questions and you have an obligation to answer truthfully.  Workplace law, even in a unionized settings, is not like a criminal investigation on TV.  There is no right to remain silent – you are a paid employee – and your choice not to participate in an investigation, or to be evasive or deceptive will in and of itself be grounds for discipline.  Make sure you are honest with your Union representative.  You are protected by privilege.  Your representative cannot be compelled to testify against you or tell the Employer what you told them.  They need to know the complete story so they can come up with the best defence for you.

However, in an investigative meeting, the union is there to observe and provide you advice on answering questions.  Answer only the questions you are asked.  Ask for a caucus if you need to speak with your representative, and they may do the same from time to time.  The Union rep cannot speak for you because the Employer will take this to mean you are hiding something or are being evasive. 

The exception to the above is if you are being investigated by the employer for something that is, was, or could become, a criminal act.  In that case, you do have a right to remain silent, and you should inform your representative that this is possibly a criminal matter and you should seek advice of a criminal lawyer, as what you say in the meeting could be used against you in a criminal proceeding.  The Union will attempt to hold off on the workplace-investigation piece wherever possible, while you are dealing with your criminal charges.

Contact us immediately.  We will do a review of your case to determine if there is prospects for success in pursuing a grievance.

Your grievance will take some time to be processed.  You have a right to be at the grievance meetings, but you may elect to have the union represent you in your absence.  If the case goes to arbitration, you must be present.

You should mitigate your losses by seeking other employment and not waiting for the grievance process to finish hoping to be reimbursed for back-wages.  Though this may happen, you have a duty to mitigate your losses and the arbitrator will deduct from your back-pay what they believe would have been reasonable earnings even if you do not earn it.

If you are genuinely terminated without just cause, or with insufficient cause, apply for EI.  EI is not payable to those terminated for cause, but if we are pursuing a grievance and believe you were not terminated for proper cause, you can apply for EI and let your representative know – we will then send a letter to EI informing them your grievance is pending and asking them to process your EI giving the benefit of the doubt to the Employee – which is a statutory provision.

If you were terminated for specific things you can change – such as drug and alcohol, try to get yourself clean by going to rehab or treatment so that by the time of the arbitration we can show you have changed your life around and we can have people to testify to that effect.

See a psychologist or therapist and seek help.  Arbitrators and employers are not unforgiving.  If you change your life around, they will be more likely to give you another chance.

DO NOT speak negatively about the employer or go on facebook and vent.  Your behaviour following termination can be used to demonstrate why the employment relationship has been irrevocably harmed and why it is not possible to be continued again.

Participate fully with the union reps processing your grievance in providing the documentation necessary and attending to medical or other appointments necessary for your defence.


Negotiations rarely begin and end before the previous collective agreement is expired.  All the terms and conditions of the previous agreement remain in place until a new one is negotiated, or until a strike or a lock-out.  

Retroactive wages apply if a wage increase is negotiated. 

Bargaining Committee is made up of the President, Unit Representatives and the Secretary-Treasurer of the Union, as per our bylaws.  The National Representative, who is a professional labour relations employee of the National Union generally leads the negotiations for each unit and is the subject matter expert, but the Committee members make decisions.  

The committee has a mandate from the membership which they obtain at the Ratification meeting.  Once a Memorandum of Agreement is reached, the committee brings it back to the membership for ratification. 

You would have to become involved in the Union as a Shop Steward first, then seek election to the position of Unit Rep for your unit. 

Alternatively, if you are elected president or Secretary-Treasurer, you would be part of every of our 10 committees. 

The members decide what the Union brings to negotiations by completing bargaining surveys which are circulated in preparation for negotiations each time.  The results of the surveys are tabulated, and proposals made on the basis of the majority of the views expressed in the surveys. 

The proposals are ratified at a member ratification meeting. 

Keep in mind that bargaining is a process of give and take.  The committee may advance 25 proposals for changes to the agreement, and the final agreement may only end up with a few of them as both parties have to agree to changes for the agreement to be reached.  Ultimately, most members want to see a wage increase.  Generally, if the employers are struggling for funds, we may renew the contract with better terms, and lower wage increases, and vice versa. 

Yes, but the best way to get your proposal part of negotiations is to fill out a bargaining survey and speak to your colleagues about also doing the same.  The more people we hear from with the same proposal, the more likely it will make the final cut.  However, this pertains to “rights-based” proposals – things that are optional.  Some proposals are important for human rights, worker rights, and human decency.  In that case, we may advance a proposal anyways, even if only one person is asking for it – such as for reasons of minority protections, or the preservation of due process or worker rights. 

It is a confidential process to allow the parties the best chance of reaching compromise.  If negotiations don’t go well, you will hear from the committee.  Otherwise, the Committee will inform the membership once the MOA is reached and you will have a chance to vote yes or no.  


The Union is just other people who are workers like you.  We are not a business.  All our activities are reported on at membership meetings – and that is our way of communicating and receiving guidance from the members.  Please come to a meeting. 

Many of our members, particularly those of younger generations, grew up in a society where most things work, and work well, most of the time. They are therefore used to certain concepts of justice as being a regular part of their experience and are shocked when they discover something that appears unjust. 

But not long ago, most things were unjust.  Unions had to fight even to have a working day not exceed 10 hours or 8 hours, just to have OHS laws, or fundamental rights like not being fired for being gay.  

Employers want to pay workers as little as possible.  And workers want to get paid as much as possible.  Some governments are more worker-friendly, some are more employer-friendly.  To get any sort of progress, Unions have had to organize, become politically involved, and even create political parties (the CCF, which became the NDP).  Thus any sort of positive improvement for workers came about by much effort. 

Members will find their job more paid in another municipality.  And they will expect that the employer will create “Equity” between the jobs.  But this is a made up concept.  There is no obligation of one employer to pay the same as another.  

In other words, there is no fundamental order to the universe, our societies, the relationship between employers and unions and there is no book we can point to by which to compel anyone to give us what we want.  Everything emerges only on account of complex forces that includes resource availability, economics, the law, regulations, the operation of the markets, and so on.  To achieve any gain for workers, we have to negotiate.  We want to pay less as taxpayers, but get paid more as workers funded by taxpayers – in other words, this is a contradictory egocentric dynamic that has to be balanced across multiple stakeholder groups, interests of the future, preservation of the company, competitiveness and as wide a benefit to as many people as possible.

It isn’t as simple as blaming anyone, it isn’t as simple as finding a job that has the same title as yours in another municipality and then demanding you get the same.  That municipality may be purposely paying more in order to get better candidates. 

Progress has to be gradual and as wide-reaching as possible to maintain social cohesion and avoid violence.  For that, bargaining is an vital and Chartered-protected process by the vision of our Sages. 


Job Evaluation, Classifications, Reclassification Requests

In human resources, employers create job descriptions for particular jobs that outline what the job is.  The job and the job description then undergo an evaluation of the skills necessary to carry out the job, education necessary, and any complex dynamics and requirements are measured in a way to determine the position of the job in the hierarchy of the company and for pay purposes.  

Where the particular job evaluation system places emphasis on hierarchical position of the job with respect to factors that include: number of people supervised, importance to the company, and overall status of the position given its importance to the functioning of the overall mission of the organization, we are most likely dealing with a “Classificiation System” as exists for most of 389’s units with the exception of the North Shore Neighbourhood House and the School District. 

The School District has adopted a points-based job evaluation system often called “gender neutral job evaluation system” which was developed by CUPE National researchers and staff.  This system is much more quantitative and fair, since it bases its evaluation of the job against 7 consistent factors that establish a numberical value to specific skills, knowledge and ability, and then the same factors are used to evaluate and rate all the jobs.  This results in a much more fair evaluation. 

The Metro Vancouver Classification System is used for all our other units. This system places much more value on items such as “difficulty of work,” “complexity of work,” “level of responsibility” and will consider things like market dynamics in terms of attracting those candidates with specific skills necessary.  

In other words, in a Classification System, the hierarchy of importance and responsibility determines wages – the CEO in a company is the most valuable, therefore will get paid the most.  All subsequent positions below him are ranked by an “order” of importance to the company or organization, who will get evaluated and have a lower pay established.  Thus, a paygrade 23 position is ranked as “more important/valuable/complex/necessary” than a paygrade 21 position.  The Classification System assures the maintenance of the hierarchy of responsibility and pay and compensates for the ability to meet the requirements of the job description, rather than using those criteria as an objective meteric that individually carries a specific compensation.