Creative Victoria area HEU members win parking fight

Dorsey pulls rug out from under employer on Capital Health Region issue

In the fall of 1999, the Capital Health Region bit off more than it could chew when it announced that parking rates for health care staff at the region’s facilities would as much as quadruple. HEU challenged the move at the Labour Relations Board, and, on the ground in Victoria, HEU members fought back with ingenuity and hard work. Together, they were able to defeat the measure.

Chuck Rowe, vice president of operations for CHR, defended the increase, saying it was necessary to partly defray the cost of the new $8 million parkade — a public/private partnership — they were set to build at Royal Jubilee Hospital.

Secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt said, “That means staff would help pay for a parking lot that probably not even RJH staff would use.”

On October 26, 2000 Arbitrator James Dorsey told the employer they could not implement a region-wide parking rate increase. They had to come back before him to rationalize the increases on a site-by-site basis.

On January 26, 2001, after listening to the cases to increase parking rates at each individual site, Dorsey ruled that only the following parking rates reflected reasonable and justifiable increases: Royal Jubilee Hospital, $1.20; Victoria General Hospital, $0.83; Gorge Road Hospital, $0.83; Saanich Peninsula, Hospital, $0.57, Juan de Fuca Hospitals, $0.36 and Queen Alexandra Centre, $0.43. The arbitrator ordered the employer to reimburse employees for any overpayment of parking rates since May 12, 2000.

The tactics used by union members to fight the increase were highly creative.

For instance, HEU members showed up at the CHR Nov. 3, 1999 meeting wearing Just Say No buttons. The Victoria General local used their website to urge their members to take up the employer’s offer to get free parking by carpooling, flooding the parking office with more than 1000 applications. Buy scratch tickets instead of using the payroll deduction, which charges for parking even when workers are sick or on holiday, they said.

“This is the way to fight an injustice,” says Allnutt. “The union went to the LRB with the grievance, but on the ground the members waged an extremely ingenious campaign to gum up the works. Congratulations to them!”