Hundreds turn out for strike rally
Tire slashed on city vehicle that union members stopped on street near city hall
Jonathan Fowlie, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2007
VANCOUVER – The city is trying to break its unions by delaying a deal and not coming to the bargaining table, the B.C. head of the Canadian Union of Public Employees alleged Wednesday.
“If there has ever been a battle in British Columbia against the public sector that talks about the words ‘union busting’ we are in the middle of one right now,” Barry O’Neill told about 1,000 strikers workers at a rally outside city hall.
“I think there is really a move to at least push the union down or push the union aside,” he said later, speaking to reporters.
“Since I can’t figure out any other reason why we would be out for six weeks on issues that have been settled across the region [all I can figure] is that the city wants to get rid of us,” he added.
City spokesman Tom Timm said there is no truth to the allegation.
“We are dealing with some very difficult issues they have put to us, that they can’t seem to drop and we haven’t come to grips with accepting, so it’s a difficult round of bargaining,” he said. “But there is nothing in it in terms of us trying to break the union.”
Timm said the city is still considering a counter-offer put forward by CUPE Local 15.
Coun. Peter Ladner also said O’Neill’s union-busting accusation was “entirely wrong.”
“We want to end this thing soon,” Ladner said in an interview. “The difficulty in settling it is in what the union is asking for rather than the process of negotiations.” He said the union has been making unreasonable demands, especially regarding job security.
“I think it is going to take a recognition by the unions that we can’t agree to a situation where the management of the city is in the hands of the union.”
Hundreds of workers from Vancouver’s three striking CUPE locals marched from Science World to city hall on Wednesday morning for a rally.
As the parade moved through the streets, people danced in circles as a pickup truck with large speakers blasted songs such as Respect and Raise a Little Hell.
On the sidewalks, people emerged from businesses to watch, some yelling in support.
As the group reached city hall, an unidentified person slashed the right front tire of a city vehicle that union members had stopped on 12th Avenue.
Police took no action. The truck was eventually removed so it didn’t block traffic.
“Is anybody here ready to quit?” B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair asked from a podium at city hall, receiving a loud “No!” in response.
Sinclair pointed to the upper floors of the building and said: “Well then up there, it’s your turn, buddy, to get back to the table and get a collective agreement,” a reference to Mayor Sam Sullivan.
Many in the rally wore placards bearing the familiar: “Sam’s Strike.”
“Why the hell, Sam, does your civil city not include pay equity?” Alex Youngberg, president of CUPE Local 391 said during the rally, referring to a major issue in negotiations with striking librarians.
“It’s not a lot to ask for a little respect,” she said.
Ladner said he was disappointed union members have chosen to personalize the dispute.
“It is a very distressing sign that there is a political campaign going on here that really has no place in a negotiation,” he said.
“People are personalizing this around Sam Sullivan and that’s not the issue.”
STRIKERS SPEAK OUT ON THE DISPUTE
Asked at the rally: What is the most important issue for you in this dispute?
“The contract language. I’m a whistle-blower and I want to know that’s respected. . . Without whistle-blowers, you end up with poisoned environments. You end up with accidents on sites.”
Resident attendant, CUPE Local 15
“Pay equity for the librarians. It’s been a really long, long time coming. It just seems ridiculous it hasn’t been addressed yet.”
Librarian assistant, CUPE Local 391
“Privatization of jobs. We’ve seen it already in the Hospital Employees’ Union with janitorial staff. There are several sectors of the city they could easily privatize out.”
Building inspector, CUPE Local 15
“Going back to work. That’s it. I’ve been ready to go back since the first day.”
Park board worker,
CUPE Local 1004″Pay equity and job security. I’m a part-time worker myself. [It's] mostly about hiring from outside the library rather than internally. Moving up would be a lot harder for us.”
Library assistant, CUPE Local 391
“The issue is clearly about process. It’s about honourable process. It’s coming to engage in a way to actually discuss things that are of concern.”
Senior urban designer,
CUPE Local 15