CUPE worried employees will be removed from union

Published on: July 22, 2016 | Last Updated: July 22, 2016 4:18 PM CST

Ashley Robinson, Leader-Post

It’s an uncertain time for some public employees in Saskatchewan who are waiting to see if their union membership will stick.

The Saskatoon Public Library, the City of Moose Jaw and the Cypress Hills Abilities Centre have applied under The Saskatchewan Employment Act to have some employees removed from their unions, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

The act allows for employers to remove workers with supervisory duties from the bargaining unit.

As a result, employees are “wondering what this will mean for me? What does this mean for my future? These kinds of things.

“It’s a concern for people. They’re not saying. ‘Oh, this is great, I want to get out of this union and be out on my own,’” said Tom Graham, president of CUPE Saskatchewan.

The Regina Public Library (RPL) also has applied to have some employees removed from the bargaining unit under older legislation. Their case is different, though.

According to Kevin Saunderson, senior manager of corporate services with RPL, it has asked the provincial Labour Relations Board for a “scope determination” on a new position — a branch manager.

“We took it upon ourselves to actually define the role of a branch manager, and that branch manager is different and the job description is broader than the job description of a branch head,” Saunderson said.

The change from branch heads to managers began last fall. RPL stopped hiring branch heads as positions became open. It is unknown how many employees will be affected by the changes as some branch heads have indicated they plan to retire soon.

CUPE Saskatchewan is concerned for all the employees involved in these cases. The union worries that these employees are going to lose their assurances of steady and fair employment if they leave the union local.

“We’re looking at a number of people that are, basically, if the employers are successful and the labour board was to agree they would be non-unionized with no collective agreement, basically, for rights,” Graham said.

CUPE has filed a notice of a constitutional question in the cases of the Saskatoon Public Library, the City of Moose Jaw and the Cypress Hills Abilities Centre.

“We think this is a violation of their rights, of freedom of association and we’re asking the labour board if they state that this legislation violates people’s rights and needs to be declared unconstitutional,” Graham said.

Saskatoon Public Library has said there will be no job losses, and no changes to wages and benefits.

“Removal from the local does not mean … I mean, the supervisors have a right to form their own union or association,” said Carol Cooley, library director and CEO of the Saskatoon Public Library.

Cooley said the library decided to remove supervisors from the union because it “believes and feels that they can exercise their abilities as supervisors if they’re not in the same bargaining unit.”