Waverly workers say “No” to employer’s proposal
If boss makes good on threat, 50 seniors will have to find another home
HEU members at Waverly of Chilliwack, a private, for-profit seniors’ care facility, voted 58 per cent on Sept. 18 to reject their employer’s attempt to reduce the wages and benefits they won as part of a recent arbitrated contract settlement.
“This was a courageous choice made by 52 HEU members, because the employer threatened closure of the facility if his rollbacks were not accepted,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “If the facility closes, the workers lose their jobs and 50 residents lose the roof over their heads.”
After 18 months of contentious bargaining, arbitrator Vince Ready awarded the Waverly local its first collective agreement on June 16. While pay and benefits would have increased significantly, Ready’s award would still leave them at wage levels below prevailing standards in B. C. This was followed by weeks of persistent rumours of closure and refusal by the employer to implement the collective agreement.
On Sept. 5 the employer offered workers a package which gave the choice of lower wages and benefits or a profit sharing scheme, telling them accept this or Waverly will close. The local’s bargaining committee recommended rejection of the offer. Acceptance would have negated Ready’s award, and the workers knew this would condemn them to five years of an inferior agreement.
“Profit sharing would put pressure on the very people who provide care for these seniors to compromise the quality of care in order to increase the employer’s profit margin,” says Allnutt. “Waverly’s HEU members care for and care about these residents. They feel management knows that and hoped that they would vote in favour of the proposal just to keep the facility open.
“They’re quite angry at the employer for putting them in the position of choosing between low wages and benefits or no job. What they need is an enforceable collective agreement like the one that Ready awarded with decent family-supporting wages and benefits.”
HEU is proceeding to use the legal process to enforce Ready’s award.