We have another brief update on bargaining for City of North Vancouver members.
Your bargaining committee met with the City of North Vancouver on July 21st for another full day of discussions.
Our talks continue to be positive. Your bargaining committee is pleased to report we are making steady progress on our priority issues. We are optimistic that the Employer appears committed to working collaboratively towards a fair deal.
We have another bargaining session scheduled for August 29th – please watch for another update shortly after.
CUPE 104 president says B.C. dispatch centres are understaffed by an average of 43 per cent.
The union representing RCMP emergency dispatchers across the country says there’s an acute shortage of staff in British Columbia, which could worsen crisis responses.
Most emergency calls in the westernmost province are handled by the non-profit organization E-Comm, which is funded by multiple Lower Mainland municipalities. Emergency dispatchers there have complained of significant staff shortages and overwork over the last year.
However, for some of the most remote communities in the province — including most of the north and the Interior — the RCMP handles dispatch operations.
According to Kathleen Hippern, the president of CUPE Local 104, which represents RCMP dispatchers, B.C. RCMP call centres are understaffed by an average of 43 per cent.
In this case, Hippern is calling on the national RCMP leadership and the Treasury Board, which manages the public service’s wages, to get vacancies filled faster.
The Treasury Board deferred to the RCMP when asked for a response. The RCMP says it is “working diligently” to address the issue.
“A number of initiatives have been undertaken in the divisions to increase the number of trained 911 dispatchers in their jurisdictions,” a spokesperson wrote in an email. “For example … in British Columbia, the RCMP started a new hiring event called ‘Coffee with a Dispatcher.'”
The event highlighted by the RCMP in B.C. involves an emergency dispatcher sitting down with interested applicants at a coffee shop and taking questions about the role.
The spokesperson said that, nationally, from January to November 2022, there was a 38.67 per cent vacancy rate among dispatchers. However, they said that 20 per cent of those were considered “soft” or temporary vacancies.
“These leave categories include medical leave, maternity and paternity leave, education or language training, etc.,” they said. “Typically, soft vacancies are not factored into vacancy reporting as the value fluctuates over time.”
Hippern said that she has been working as a dispatcher since 2006 and that the “snowball” of short-staffing has been accelerating over the last decade.
The union president says that dispatchers in remote communities are particularly stretched during crisis situations like wildfires — calls that she says that can’t be handled effectively when centres are that understaffed.
“I know that Prince George has been affected in the past with fires in 2017, 2018,” Hippern said. “They got the job done [then], but it wasn’t easy.
Hippern says that dispatch centres were no longer the “employer of choice,” especially for younger people who are put off by the idea of working evenings, weekends and holidays.
She also says the RCMP should pay dispatchers more for the work they do and that the wages being offered are not competitive with the rest of the public sector.
The annual starting salary for an RCMP dispatcher in B.C. is $51,673.
CUPE 104 is currently negotiating its first collective agreement with the RCMP. Talks have been underway since 2021, according to the force.
“The RCMP shares and supports the Government of Canada’s commitment to reaching an agreement with RCMP 911 dispatchers that is fair to employees and reasonable to Canadians,” an RCMP spokesperson said in a statement.
ABBOTSFORD—In votes held after membership meetings today, CUPE 561 transit workers have ratified a mediated settlement with First Transit, ending a strike that began 124 days ago. Picket lines are being taken down, and the 213 transit workers will begin the return-to-work process.
The six-year agreement, which ends on March 31, 2026, narrows the wage gap with other transit workers in the region while introducing a pension plan that takes effect next spring. The union says it’s a step in the right direction and recognizes the importance of these members’ work.
“Our members needed a lift, and with this agreement they got one,” said CUPE 561 President Randy Kootte.
“Special Mediator Vince Ready’s recommendations were a fair compromise, providing us with a foundation for future rounds of bargaining. By ratifying this memorandum of settlement, the members agree that this contract is a good start in addressing their concerns.”
As well as appreciating the Special Mediator’s efforts, Kootte thanked Fraser Valley residents for their constant support of the union’s bargaining goals from the beginning of the strike.
“We cannot thank our communities enough for supporting us in our struggle to achieve wage fairness and retirement security—and showing that support despite the many hardships and inconveniences people had to endure as the dispute dragged on,” he said.
Kootte added that the union will do everything it can to quickly resume service in the Fraser Valley and will work with the employer to make sure that buses are running as soon as possible.
To support students and their families who are feeling challenged with the rising costs of living, the Ministry of Education and Child Care has provided the North Vancouver School District with one-time targeted, special grant funding through the 2022-2023 Student and Family Affordability Fund. Unspent funds will be carried over into the 2023-2024 school year for principals to waive fees and provide supports to students experiencing financial challenge as noted below.
Funding support available
Funding support is meant to offset increased cost of living expenses and will be allocated toward school-related expenses incurred during the 2022-2023 school year.
Eligible expenses include:
School fees (e.g., fees for school sports and other school activities)
School/course supplies, such as:
Basic school supplies that may otherwise be purchased by families and students, such as pens, paper, etc.
Additional supplies for shop, culinary and craft classes, workbooks, camps, one-day field trips, cultural events, student society meetings including those related to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and instrument and equipment fees.
Clothing/footwear required for school sports or other school activities
Your bargaining committee is disappointed to report that we have not made any progress towards a new collective agreement.
The District has shown little interest in having meaningful discussions about your bargaining priorities. They ended our June 23 meeting early and cancelled our June 30 meeting at the last minute at 5:22 pm the night before.
This is a clear indication that the employer is unwilling to make this round of negotiations a priority. Instead of negotiating and working to make improvements to the workplace, the District continues to say no to even the most mutually beneficial and zero cost proposals.
Currently, we have no additional bargaining dates scheduled with the District.
Your bargaining committee has repeatedly requested dates over the summer but the employer has stated their committee is unavailable. Negotiations are not scheduled to resume until the fall.
We remain committed to negotiating a collective agreement that addresses your key priorities and is in line with other settlements in our region. You and your co-workers deserve a collective agreement that recognizes and respects your contributions as dedicated employees.
Without real progress, we must start exploring options to get movement from the Employer on our priorities.
Transit workers in the Fraser Valley are on strike for fair wages and a fair pension.
These workers, who ensure everyone in our communities has an affordable, safe, and reliable way to travel, make 32% less than other transit operators in our region, and have no pension benefits.
Fraser Valley transit workers need a fair deal: one that ensures they don’t need to work a second or third job just to make ends meet, and one that provides an ability to retire after a career spent getting Fraser Valley residents where they need to go.
The foreign-owned, for-profit contractor hired by BC Transit to provide service to our community has failed. They refuse to pay workers what other transit operators in region are paid, putting their profits before the needs of transit workers and riders and our community.
It is time for BC Transit and our elected decision-makers to take responsibility for the failure of their contractor, and do the right thing to support transit users and workers.