IWA-Canada deal with Compass “flawed” says CLC leader

Georgetti urges forest union to reconsider its involvement in health care organizing

A controversial arrangement between a local of the IWA-Canada and the British multinational Compass covering privatized housekeeping services at Vancouver Hospital is “flawed”, Canada’s top labour leader has determined.

And, in response to complaints lodged by HEU/CUPE, Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti went even further, urging the IWA-Canada to “reconsider [its] decision to organize in the broader health care sector.”

Georgetti states that the CLC constitution did not contemplate circumstances like those arising from the IWA voluntary recognition arrangement, which meant he would not issue a formal remedy. But the labour congress leader concluded that “the process of obtaining a voluntary recognition agreement and establishing a collective agreement directly with the employer — Compass/Vancouver Coastal Health Authority — was flawed.”

He also challenged the forest union to sign on to the special organizing procedures adopted by the B.C. Federation of Labour to prevent unions from being divided by the Campbell government’s privatization scheme. It’s the IWA’s refusal to adhere to the organizing protocol — which gives the union whose members jobs are being privatized six months to reorganize the workers — that’s put it in conflict with the rest of B.C.’s labour movement.

HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt says the findings validate the concerns raised by a number of B.C. unions after news emerged of the IWA-Compass agreement that cut wages in half and eliminated almost all benefits and protections.

“This is generally a positive finding in which Brother Georgetti clearly supports the moral basis to our complaint and concerns,” says Allnutt. “It aids our broad-based campaign to prevent the Liberals from rolling back wages and working conditions for thousands of support workers, and our efforts to organize work that is privatized.”

Allnutt says that HEU will work within the labour movement to deal with the issues.

CUPE National president Judy Darcy has been very forceful in pressing the labour movement to do the right thing. “The CLC constitution is designed for precisely this situation and it must be made to work.”

In a letter to IWA-Canada president David Haggard, Georgetti urged that union to work with B.C. Fed affiliates to combat what he called “the Campbell government’s attempts to cut back on health care and contract out unionized services” already covered by good collective agreements.

“When major unions in British Columbia are fighting with each other it is only the employers and the Campbell Liberals that win,” Georgetti wrote to Haggard. “I encourage all of the affiliates to work together to defeat this government and strengthen the labour movement.”

Georgetti was also critical of the tone of HEU leaflets designed to bring public attention to the voluntary recognition agreement and the “flawed” collective agreement that would roll economic progress for women back 30 years. The CLC president says the HEU materials “constituted a public attack on the IWA-Canada.”