Letter: Unions not to blame for financial woes

Workers are not the bad guys here. CUPE K-12 workers in B.C. are largely a part-time workforce.

To the editor:

Old rhetoric never dies, it just keeps being regurgitated.

I was on vacation when Tom Fletcher’s column about union workers was published in the Sept. 6 edition of the Capital News.

I realize that Mr. Fletcher doesn’t support paid vacation time for workers, but that’s another story.

What struck me about his references to CUPE K-12 support staff is the level of inflammatory half-truths and cliche buzzwords. I am familiar with those contracts and here’s one key point that should not be forgotten.

No contract is ever reached without both sides agreeing to it.

So any provisions referred to by Mr. Fletcher have been signed off by the employers involved—that’s because they work.

I also find his reference to poor self-employed taxpayers having to fund this stuff curious.

One would think everybody out there is working for themselves.

Not true. And those who are running a business know that you pay a reasonable rate and treat your employees well to recruit and retain them.

Dump them when they start earning a higher rate, or deny them paid time off and they either leave or don’t want to work for you.

That isn’t good for any business. Workers are not the bad guys here.

CUPE K-12 workers in B.C. are largely a part-time workforce.

They get laid off (and no pay) over Christmas, spring break and the summer.

Most work about 8 1/2 months a year. The hourly wages have been compared to the private sector and other public sector workers and that is why the government agreed to the trade’s adjustment.

The trained staff were/are leaving because they can earn more money outside the school system.

They had also agreed to a Labour Market Adjustment in 2006 which was removed for all union staff, but not for management staff—they still get it.

Many school districts continue to pay extra to certain work groups because they know if they don’t they won’t be able to fill vacancies or keep people. Then they’ll have to contract out to private companies who will gouge them to do the work they would otherwise do in-house at a lower cost.

Mr. Fletcher complains that with layoff provisions the “more expensive” employees are the ones that remain working.

I suppose in his world those employees would be dumped and new, untrained staff would take their place. Is that really a good way to run a business?

I said earlier that no agreement is reached until both parties agree. There’s one exception to that; and they sit in Victoria.

Dealing with the unions is transparent and honest. You get what you bargain.

The Liberal government in Victoria on the other hand seems to have no regard for written agreements, a fair bargaining process or fairness generally.

If they can’t negotiate it, they’ll legislate it, despite having been found by the courts in the past to have done so illegally.

One last note—workers (yes, even unionized workers) pay taxes, live in and support our communities too. I’m a proud trade unionist, and for that I make no apologies.

Rob Hewitt,



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