We met in Victoria for three days this week with the following summary representing some of the highlights:

There has been no further offer from the employer at this stage to ‘sweeten the pot’.

Co-operative Gains Mandate

We continue to bring forward the ideas our co-workers have sent us in the spirit of co-operative gains.  Here are the most recent discussions:

•A document available that explains BC Assessment’s tax levy (Quick Facts) notes that “the change in the BCA average tax levy charge per customer has been well below inflation”.  So if businesses can continue to pass along increased costs to the consumer, why can’t BC Assessment.  We are effectively starving ourselves as we grow in folios and assessed value and yet the government wonders why we are hungry!

•The Public Service Pension Plan of course makes an annual inflation adjustment based on the Canadian Consumer Price Index (CPI) which in 2011 was 2.8% so retired employees will be receiving that adjustment this year.  The BCCPI rate in 2011 was 2.4%.

•Comparing our wage increases to the CPI we are 5.3% behind since 2004...that’s the erosion of our purchasing power that we’ve all felt.

•A new Database Administrator job was posted where there was no vacancy.  This at a time when there are supposed budgetary shortfalls.  The employers answer is that we are a data-heavy organization and the task is expanding.  Perhaps they forget that the data is collected and analyzed by field employees who are being left behind?

•We suggested an increased focus on selling our services to First Nations which do not currently have a contract with us.

•With office space created in Vancouver for our CEO and VP of field operations we asked if they were able to claim travel expenses for their work in Victoria...which is where the job is focused.  Employees in Vernon for example don’t get to claim expenses to travel to Kelowna where their jobs are!

•An example was raised of an HR coordinator who had booked an expensive Helijet trip to the Vancouver office just to observe a training session.  Fortunately the flightwas cancelled, but how many other trips like this occur under the radar?

•We’ve also raised the issue that our Head Office in Victoria is the most expensive lease rate in the city.  Why do we need such excessively expensive office space?  The employer feels that our questions represent an anti-Head Office sentiment which it is not; it’s a concern about how prudent we are with our budget.  We had to remind them that many of the concerns we express are from Head Office bargaining unit employees!

•Employees have suggested that the $500,000 budget for a new VP of innovation be scrapped.  Our suggestion is that we have many managers, layers upon layers in fact ofmanagers and vice-presidents who surely are capable of thinking of innovative thoughts on their own.

Lateral Transfers 
We’re moving slowly but incrementally to a process by which lateral transfers can happen internally with no competition against external candidates. One hold up is the employer’s insistence it be tied to the requirement of “satisfactory performance” and the revised PDP. They have however been unwilling to define what exactly that means.  The concern of course is that every supervisor and every manager around the province will have a different expectation of satisfactory performance. If this moves forward there must be a transparent and clear definition.

Sick Leave
It remains the Union’s position that if a doctor’s note is required by the employer that they pay for it. A prescription pad note was acceptable not very many years ago and it was at the employer’s insistence that the requirement be increased to the form which almost all doctors charge for. This is an expense of their creation that we’ve been unfairly carrying.

Special Leave
The Union feels that it’s important that not only can an employee take a day to care for a sick child, but that  should be extended to caring for a spouse as well. Certainly if they just have the sniffles that is not the intent, but if they need to be brought home from the hospital and cared for, the initial day should be covered rather than having to burn a vacation day. We don’t feel this would be used very much and so represents a low cost benefit.

Similarly the serious illness or hospitalization clause should be extended from just elderly parents to all immediate family members.
We have also suggested that BCA follows the BCGEU contract in allowing reasonable receipted expenses for having to travel for specialist medical or dental treatment not found in smaller centers.  This would be limited to $500 per calendar year.

The Union had been proposing BCA move to the allowable CRA rate of 53c/km effective January 1, 2012. Using BCA Internal Audit vehicle use study data there is only a $5,400 annual expense increase per cent increase; an extremely small amount compared to our total budget.

Meal Allowances
We continue to work on having employees and managers beingpaid the same amount and with full retroactivity to January 1, 2012.

The measures used in calculating our gainsharing payments should be reasonably achievable and logical. To only count the refunds given to taxing jurisdictions under the roll stability measure is nonsensical in that we should be measuring the net tax change to them if roll stability is truly the aim.

Similarly with our customer service goals if the standard was set during years of unusually high survey results, we should not be penalized when the long term average drops below unachievable targets.

In the last round of bargaining we successfully argued that temporary employees also receive gainsharing since they directly contributed to adding non-market change and producing the roll, but this was tempered somewhat by the employer insisting that it only be awarded to temps who return the following year. This agreement needs to be incorporated into the body of MOU#1 in our Collective Agreement.

Flexible Hours of Work
The parties have been exploring ways of incorporating more flexible work hours into the Collective Agreement. The employers approach had been to propose a radical departure to our existing two work schedule options but only test it for a trial period.  The Unions proposal is to retain our two options of regular hours or two week flex schedule and add a four week flex cycle but incorporate the existing flexibility that exists in more progressive offices including easier access to earlier or later start times and moving a flex outside the schedule.

We’ve additionally proposed allowing longer days to enable a four day work week that the Board has told the employer is not allowable...for reasons known only to themselves at this point.

We return to the bargaining table on June 26th in Richmond.

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