Sisters and Brothers of CUPE Local 4848:
This is a message from your Executive regarding the GoFundMe page and various other groups/pages indicating and supporting a direction towards reclassification and move to New Brunswick Union (NBU). We feel that there are many questions that are going unanswered and this is a release of information that is felt to be very necessary.
First, we want to make clear that CUPE Local 4848 cannot and will not support any initiative to move out of CUPE. As elected Executive members of this Local, we have taken an oath and to support a move out of CUPE would be going against our Constitution. We also feel that many members are misinformed with respect to the potential effects of a reclassification. That is why we are sending this message out to our members, to make sure that they have the right facts. Every day, Local 4848 is working extremely hard to improve working conditions for its members and to get the recognition we deserve. These issues will not be fixed by a reclassification, but rather with union solidarity and hard work.
- Wages– Let’s start with the obvious and what is felt as the main motivation behind all of this: wages. There is no doubt that the government is finally paying attention to this issue, thanks to the untiring efforts of Local 4848. Again, we feel this will be fixed by membership solidarity and the union’s hard work, not reclassification.
Everyone is quick to speak about the ECG techs; however, going to NBU had absolutely nothing to do with the wage increase everyone talks about. That increase was related to a pay equity study that was done. In fact, ECG techs were not the only classification to benefit from this, educational assistants being another large group. It’s also very important to note that both provincial healthcare groups under NBU both took 0%, 0%, 2%, 2% and 1%, 1%, 1%, 1% on both of their last contracts. Just like every single other provincial bargaining group. One last thing in the way that NBU has negotiated their wage packages: they have agreed to “me too clauses”. This means they took the same wage package as all the other provincial groups with the added clause stating that if any other group should achieve more for wages they would be matched. This did affect our group the last round, as it made government much more reluctant to break the wage mandate because they would have to also pay the groups that had “me too clauses”.
- Merit System– This is another very important clause that directly impacts wages. The pay scales under our current collective agreement has steps A-B-C in the pay scales. Moving up the steps is done automatically for each 1957.5 hours worked. Again, this is automatic based only on hours of service.
The pay scale structure under the NBU collective agreement has steps A-B-C-D-E-F and is based on a merit system. This means that in addition to hours of service, the employer has a say if the member would move up a step, based on performance. Therefore, it is quite possible that if there is any form of discipline or attendance issues, the employer could stop the move up the scale in the merit system.
- Pension– There is a very good chance that the share of 4848 members in the current pension fund would be frozen until the age of retirement. You would not lose what has already been accumulated but it would be frozen in the current fund. Therefore, it is most likely that everyone would be starting over under a new pension fund. Because there is Federal legislation that would allow paramedics to retire early with no penalty, there is currently being an actuary study being done to investigate the cost of this. The current pension fund is also getting closer every year to being funded to a level of 140%. Once the 140% is reached, then the board of trustees would be able to look at the penalty structure for retiring early which would apply to all members. We cannot speak on the condition of the current NBU pension funds or how healthy they are. Under a move to NBU, if there was a deal to gain penalty-free retirement for paramedics, it may only apply to the pension fund after the move and not to the frozen funds in the current pension fund. The early retirement option would require additional contributions and would not be applied to the current pensions which would be frozen.
- Retirement Allowance– There is a very strong message from CUPE to engage only in no concession bargaining. CUPE also has a policy not to engage in two-tier bargaining. The retirement allowance is a larger sum of money than most people realize. The stance of CUPE groups is very clear that giving up retirement allowance is absolutely not an option. On the other hand, NBU groups in the medical field both created a two-tier system for retirement allowance.
- Accommodation and Mobility– This is a benefit that is used much more often that most members realize. Should a member reach the point where they are no longer able to work in their classification due to physical or mental limitations, there is an option to accommodate into a job at the RHA.
- Union Structure– It is very important to note that NBU does not have executive boards and autonomous structures like CUPE has. What this means is that paramedics/dispatchers would only have one seat on a bargaining committee at best, and the current autonomous executive board would likely disappear. For all of those who say: “What does my union do for me?”, you would find out very quickly what the union does once it disappears. All of the work and campaigns and rallies that Local 4848 has undertook since 2007 would be virtually non-existent under NBU. There is a reason why the government is now paying attention to us: it is because of the work of your union, CUPE Local 4848.
- Blue Cross Benefits– The vast majority of provincial public workers – including NBU workers – is in the same plan. This is unlikely to change under NBU. Benefits under Blue Cross is negotiated between government and Medavie Blue Cross. There is a Standing Committee on Insured Benefits (SCIB) that can make recommendations to the plan but cannot enforce direct change. Typically, the only thing regarding benefits that is at the negotiation table is the percentage of the premiums the employer pays. It is currently 75% of the health and 50% of the dental which is common amongst most of the union structures under the plan. Again, any changes to the benefits package is highly unlikely.
- MOU with respect to Ambulance Services– Under our collective agreement, there is an MOU specific to 4848. One of the main benefits under this is the meal allowance clause. Due to the high cost of paying meal allowances, there are no guarantees that this benefit would be achievable again under any new structure. Upon transfer, there is absolutely no guarantee that this agreement would continue.
- Language Grievance– Since the implementation of ANB’s Official Languages Strategic Plan, there has been a tremendous amount of work and effort by CUPE Local 4848 to push this policy back. As most know, the decision of the adjudicator was in our favor. The Province has refused to follow the decision and we are waiting for a judicial review of the adjudicator’s decision. A transfer out of CUPE may put this whole process in jeopardy. With very little structure under NBU to continue this process, there is a real possibility the language plan would remain unchanged.
As everyone can see, there is A LOT at stake here. We understand that likely the main motivation for this entire initiative is money. Is the risk worth the reward if there is one? We don’t see how a switch to NBU could possibly be a benefit to the profession in the long run. As we speak, CUPE NB has a massive campaign to “Break the Mandate”, which is getting major traction. Local 4848 also gained a tremendous amount of media attention in the last few months and we are getting traction. We can’t see NBU breaking the mandate; if they do, it would be because CUPE broke it first. We hear everyone in their desire for better wages, we hear that loud and clear. That is something we all want. We do not feel that NBU is the answer that will work for our membership, but rather move us further behind.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If anyone has any questions, please talk to your executive board or your Station VP, and we will get you an answer.