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Union gets bad grade from Quesnel’s Emcon employees

Highway maintenance workers plowing own way

Some of Emcon Services Road Maintenance employees want to break up with their union.

Some 88 workers in the Quesnel division of Emcon have apparently asked to cut ties with the BC General Employees Union (BCGEU). The union is resisting the attempt.

Stephen Foss, on behalf of 88 Quesnel employees, filed the application to decertify after he and others in the division felt they had not been well represented by the BCGEU in the last round of contract negotiations. About 70 per cent of the group voted in favour of going their own way in a ballot conducted in spring and registered with the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB).

The BCGEU countered with the LRB that the entire process undertaken by the Quesnel people was against provincial labour rules.

“Our union contests the legitimacy of this application based on incorrect information included in the materials submitted,” said a statement from the union posted on their website signed by Rory Smith, a BCGEU vice-president. “The BCGEU is also challenging the application based on clear evidence of employer interference, intimidation and coercion. We will also be filing an Unfair Labour Practices Application seeking to hold the employer accountable for this conduct, which is in violation of the Labour Relations Code.”

Foss said the union is fighting harder against them than they ever fought for them. He finds it absurd, he told The Observer, that the employer would be brought into the conversation, since the entire process was well underway before management even found out it was happening, and the whole point of the exercise is to drive an even harder bargain with the company, perhaps in time (no new union can be engaged for at least 10 months following a decertification) with a new and potentially more aggressive union, which is hardly motivation for any management team to pick the workers’ side over a union still bargaining on behalf of other Emcon divisions.

No, said Foss, this is all about local workers wishing for a relationship to end, especially since the BCGEU has subsequently engaged in tactics they feel targets them harshly.

“We believe that the union is personally attacking us, and personally attacking management,” said Foss in a document filed July 14 to the LRB responding to the union’s positioning.

“We are committed to doing better,” said Smith’s posting. “We know we haven’t been perfect. We’ve heard your concerns and frustrations, and we want to learn more about where we need to improve. We want to hear from you so that we can take immediate action. We want you to know that our union is committed to working together to find a path forward together.”

Foss explained that the first time he gathered signatures to decertify, he unknowingly used the wrong forms. The fact he went through the whole process again and got a comparable result is indication that the 88 employees in Quesnel are indeed serious about taking a different bargaining path. The BCGEU trying to use technicalities just shows they were never in it for the workers, is his impression now.

“We oppose the union’s request to dismiss our application for decertification,” he wrote in the LRB rebuttal. “All we ask is that the union step aside and let the votes speak for themselves.”

The two sides are each hoping the LRB sides with them in a ruling expected possibly this week.

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