Negotiations with the aid of a conciliator commenced last Thursday and Friday afternoon, and will continue tomorrow and Thursday. Two additional dates are scheduled for late June. Despite Bell’s negotiating committee’s firm refusal to move on almost everything we have presented, and their apparent desire to push us into a corner, we remain hopeful that we will make good progress and bring this round of negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion.
As promised in our May 13th memo, we outline proposals still under discussion below, and share our reasons for seeking these changes. For brevity, there are a number of proposals mainly relating to the administration of the Collective Agreement not listed here.
In the interest of reaching agreement, our Committee has withdrawn a number of our more minor proposals. The Company has also withdrawn some minor proposals. As usual, the Company is seeking concessions from TEAM members, however the impact of some of their proposals are substantial, and if accepted as is, will have a major impact on our working conditions and benefits.
The importance of TEAM’s request for Bell to bring an SME to the table was demonstrated last week when it came to light that the Winnipeg members of Bell’s negotiating committee did not fully understand the ramifications of changing to Bell’s vacation schedule. Bell’s proposal will result in every TEAM member who is not yet at the maximum, having to work one extra year (18 months for some) to receive the next increment in their vacation allotment. Bell’s reluctance to bring in its SME’s is inconsistent with its stated desire to reach a deal and is proving to be an impediment to progress. [Note: Bell has since advised that they had incorrectly explained how the new schedule would impact members - see TEAM's memo of June 6, 2019].
Note: As these are ongoing contract negotiations, should any of the following information be in conflict with TEAM’s position at the negotiating table, the position at the table shall prevail. Any proposal not listed below should not be considered as TEAM having withdrawn said proposal or that it is of lesser importance.
Considering the concessions being sought by Bell, and the 2.3% increase (since March 2018) in the Manitoba Consumer Price Index, TEAM’s opening position for annual increases is not unreasonable. – Not discussed and Bell has not yet submitted a proposal.
TEAM is seeking to improve payouts for all members, and to bring members in 301 to 305 rated positions in line with the 306-308 pay schedules. - Not discussed.
Bell proposes deleting all references to double-time overtime throughout the Collective Agreement. This would affect all overtime worked beyond four hours in a given week. - TEAM rejects.
TEAM proposes incorporating overtime language from the Canada Labour Code (the minimum legal standard), to read as follows:
When an employee is required or permitted to work in excess of the normal working day, such work shall be considered overtime and will be compensated for at the applicable overtime rate. - Not discussed.
TEAM proposes incorporating a previously agreed process that allows TEAM members to be paid higher than scale where it can be shown that the specific position/job function is paid below market rates and the Company is experiencing difficulties in retaining and/or recruiting employees to the position. - Not discussed.
Bell proposes reducing the workday for Managers of Craft Employees to 7.5 hours. This would have a significant impact on the annual income of members working in these roles, affecting their AIP payout and pension. - TEAM rejects.
TEAM is proposing that Managers of Craft Employees receive eight hours of pay for their eight hours of work instead of the nonsensical 7.846 hours of pay they receive today. - Not discussed.
Bell proposes deleting this entire Article, removing the right of employees to receive additional pay for working non-standard hours on weekdays, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and Saturdays and Sundays (when applicable). - TEAM rejects.
Bell proposes deleting the right to bank vacation and vacation overtime credits. As mentioned in our memo of April 25th, the ability to bank vacation credits is beneficial to members in both the Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution pension schemes. It is of particular benefit to members in the Defined Benefit pension plan (approximately three-quarters of our membership) because the paid out banked vacation is pensionable, resulting in an increased pension. TEAM is proposing multiple options to give members as much opportunity to bank vacation credits before the window of opportunity finally closes. - Discussions are ongoing.
TEAM proposes the Company creates job descriptions for all TEAM positions, and that they be reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis as the work evolves. - Bell rejects.
TEAM seeks transparency in the job evaluation/re-evaluation process as many members express frustration at seeing their work expand significantly and then be denied a re-evaluation or see no upgrade for reasons they do not understand. TEAM further proposes to allow Bell double the time they claim it takes them to complete such evaluations. - Bell refuses to renew this LOU should TEAM require timelines in the Agreement; however, discussions are ongoing.
These Articles are the subject of numerous ongoing grievances and arbitrations and may ultimately be resolved in those arenas. However, in parallel and in these negotiations, TEAM proposes changes to provide more timely posting of permanent vacancies and an increase in advancement opportunities through Acting Appointments, and to develop a more level playing field in the interview process by posting such Appointments as soon as it becomes apparent that the position will be long-term or permanent. - Discussions are ongoing.
This LOU is also the subject of an ongoing grievance and arbitration. With Bell’s significant downsizing of the workforce in Manitoba and the loss of many TEAM jobs, contracting-in is a significant issue for our members. We have numerous outstanding questions about the Company’s use of contractors to perform TEAM work, especially in situations where the work is done by a TEAM member one day and then by a contractor literally the next day. There is a significant lack of trust in the Company’s actions regarding such contractors, both within the TEAM office and our membership. - Discussions are ongoing.
TEAM proposes that demotions can only take place for reasons of ‘just cause’, at the member’s request, or for compassionate reasons. - Bell rejects.
Vacation and Leaves of Absence
Bell proposes transitioning to Bell’s Vacation Policy. TEAM has no issue with moving members to a new vacation year (January 1 to December 31) to align with Company policy, provided there is no impact on our members’ vacation allotments, banking of vacation days can still occur, and we fully understand what TEAM members are being asked to accept. TEAM has asked for clarification on a number of issues e.g.:
a) What happens to vacation allotment increases for members whose NCS date falls between January 1 and April 30? If TEAM accepted the proposal as written, approximately 30% of TEAM members will have their vacation allotment increase delayed by eight months.
b) It seems that Bell’s vacation policy is “use it or lose it”. We have asked what this really means - do you lose your vacation if you cannot schedule vacation because of workload or will it be paid out?
A late development on this proposal from Bell was highlighted in the opening paragraphs of this memo, in short, all members’ next vacation increment could be delayed by one year, and those in a) above, by up to 18 months! TEAM is waiting to hear more from Bell on their real intent with this proposal, is it to move to a new vacation schedule, to intentionally delay vacation increments, or both. [Note: Bell has since advised that they had incorrectly explained how the new schedule would impact members - see TEAM's memo of June 6, 2019].
Bell proposes significantly reducing the number of PLDs. - TEAM rejects.
Bell proposes a major overhaul of the sick leave provisions, with a transition to a short-term disability (STD) structure, which would include a changed timeline for progressing from short-term sick leave to becoming eligible for long-term disability (LTD) and reductions in both the sick leave and LTD payout amounts. Under the new plan, members would see a reduction in their take-home pay after eight weeks’ sick leave vs the full 100% of pay our members receive up to their banked number of sick day credits. With the Company’s current proposal, unused sick leave (176 days maximum) will be wiped from the record and all employees, regardless of their past use of sick days will revert to the same level, which includes Manulife making the determination of whether you are even eligible (despite having a doctor’s note) to receive sick pay. - We are waiting for answers from Bell to numerous questions about the proposed STD structure and changes to the LTD plan.
TEAM proposes enabling members to utilize up to five accrued sick leave credits to provide immediate and temporary care of a sick family member. - Not discussed.
Bell proposes replacing the wording of this Article with a reference to Bell’s Maternity/Parental Leave practice. While TEAM agrees that the new practice provides an improved benefit, and supports the proposed changes, the Company will not provide our members with this enhanced benefit unless we agree to remove the Maternity and Parental Leave provisions from the Collective Agreement. Without the wording in the Agreement, Bell can unilaterally change or revoke any part of its practice at any time. Warnings from other unions at Bell have given us cause to be concerned. - Discussions are ongoing.
TEAM proposes granting victims of domestic violence leave in accordance with Manitoba’s Employment Standards Code. - Bell initially rejected the proposal, but it is now under consideration.
TEAM proposes that rather than being forced to use vacation or PLDs, members be allowed to use flex-time attend medical appointments. - Not discussed.
TEAM proposes incorporating a statement that all the rights of the Collective Agreement apply when working away from the business office, such as, when working from home the overtime rules still apply. - Despite acknowledging that this is correct, Bell rejects.
TEAM proposes increasing payouts to be inline with what Bell is paying other professionals and ending the payout of different amounts based on age. TEAM also proposes changes to broaden redeployment opportunities and to streamline the Layoff Article and VRTIP LOU to better reflect the current process. - Not discussed.
Bell proposes deleting the need to group single incumbent positions with like positions. - TEAM’s proposal incorporates this request.
TEAM proposes increasing the time between rounds of negotiating from 3-years to 4-years, making for a more stable work environment. - Bell rejects.
Bearing in mind that these negotiations are ongoing, we will provide updates on the status of these proposals as and when the timing is appropriate.