Compromise for city, parks workers

B.C. city guilty of contracting out, to an extent

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) filed a grievance against the City of Castlegar in British Columbia over who should maintain certain parkland.

CUPE Local 2262 argued that maintenance and servicing of the beach area known as Millennium Ponds had been contracted out illegally. It argued that, traditionally, members of the bargaining unit mowed the grass, maintained the sprinklers and handled the garbage, as well as tended rose bushes and shrubs and trees, thereby making the work exclusive to the union.

According to the collective agreement, routine work could not be contracted out unless particularly specialized or without going through an extensive process.

That process included reasonable notice to the union and a reasonable case made for effectiveness and cost by the employer.

CUPE, therefore, said the employer violated the collective agreement when it contracted out specific work on the ponds that the union felt belonged within the bargaining unit, and without due process.

However, the city said the collective agreement allowed for the contracting out of specified or non-routine work arbitrarily. In this case, it felt the bargaining unit employees did not have the expertise to build the ponds.

Further, no layoffs had resulted in the contracting out, so the employer acted within its rights and in good faith.

According to one city advisor, the $1.6-million project should be contracted out as there was to be a total transformation of the area and the job would not qualify as routine bargaining unit work.

In that regard, arbitrator Ronald Keras sided with the employer, saying the work did not belong to the bargaining unit.

However, the routine duties — mowing grass, maintaining wildlife, collecting garbage — should be considered traditional bargaining unit work Monday through Friday.

The contractors will maintain the ponds and beach area on weekends and statutory holidays.

Reference: City of Castlegar and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 2262. Ronald S. Keras — arbitrator. Carolyn MacEachern for the employer, Keith Nielson for the union. Nov. 30, 2015.

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