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TEAM Bargaining Update

 

 

TEAM and MTS Allstream agree to additional conciliation dates on August 27, 28 & 29.

 

TEAM and MTS Allstream will be returning to conciliation following an agreement between both parties to extend the conciliation process beyond the August 21st deadline. Your Union is hopeful that these additional dates will lead to a fair and equitable agreement.

 

 

Q         What happened at the most recent round of conciliation?

A         TEAM had proposed that the parties try to deal with some non contentious items in order to get things moving.  TEAM compromised and dropped items.  We had some success on signing off on a few items such as adding bereavement/compassionate care to the collective agreement; no discrimination or harassment of TEAM members; letters of understanding from prior arbitrations added so the collective agreement is a self standing document.

 

TEAM was then asked to focus its issues. We did so.  We narrowed our job security proposals from 7 to 3 and our career progression/development proposals from 7 to 3.  The three job security proposals focus on gaining protection in future layoffs, limiting the use of contractors, and a procedure to better protect TEAM members in the event of contracting out or sell offs.  The company took an entire day to prepare a response to our movement yet came back with very little. 

 

The Company was not prepared to do anything to better protect TEAM members in the event of contracting out or sell offs.  On the issue of contractors, the Company is only prepared to reduce the numbers from 90 to 80 in a year from now and from 80 to 70 three years from now.  The Company continues to prioritize contractors over long service, loyal and hard working TEAM members.  The Company did offer to place a single incumbent facing layoff in a multi incumbent group at their sole choosing, and then to compare that single incumbent to the rest of those in the multi incumbent group, and if there are “no differences” then service would play a role. 

 

It seems to us that when comparing, in this situation, there will always be some difference, so service will be meaningless.  Also, the company refused to allow a TEAM member facing layoff to have access to any term, temporary, acting or contractor position in order to avoid layoff.  There was no mention of letting contractors go first before a member facing layoff goes out the door.  Moreover, the Company was only prepared to deal with these issues by “linking” them to resolution of monetary issues, such as the company’s desire to introduce a discriminatory defined contribution plan for all new employees and TEAM’s desire to get rid of the “C” scale.  Our concern is that the company is trying to play job security off against a defined contribution and other monetary concerns such as the “C” scale. 

 

The TEAM bargaining committee felt it necessary to tell the company of our disappointment and frustration with their weak response and we did so on last day of this round of conciliation.  

 

Q         What can TEAM do regarding the excessive number of contractors?

A         TEAM has delivered a “Notice of Termination” regarding the Letter of Understanding (LOU) to MTS Allstream regarding “Engagees Performing Bargaining Unit Work”.  This means the agreement between the Company and TEAM dated April 28, 1999, has been terminated.  The grounds for termination are, the Company exceeded the number of engagees (contractors) of 90 late last year.

 

Q         Is the company offering us the same rights and collective agreement language already given to other unions by MTS Allstream?

A         No.  The TEAM collective agreement is weaker than the collective agreements of other unions, yet the company refuses to give TEAM members what other employees already have i.e.: (stronger protection in the event of layoff). 

 

Q         What are the stumbling blocks to a fair “deal”?

A         The issues at the table are concerns identified by the membership from the surveys, at meetings and dozens of one on ones.  Please visit the TEAM website for details teamunion.mb.ca and click on News, Bargaining updates, then the article dated 2007-02-22 TEAM Membership Bargaining Agenda 2007.  The link is as follows:  http://www.teamunion.mb.ca/renderpage.php?cat=news&subcat=bargaining&id=85

 

           Our issues focus on greater protection from unfair layoff, limiting the use of contractors at the expense of members, some protection from contracting out and sell offs, better career opportunity through greater access to acting and temporary positions, lateral transfers and training.  As expected, the company does not want to give TEAM members new rights, but prefers the status quo.

 

Q         Will there be a strike?

A         TEAM has no intention to call a strike.  TEAM thinks a strike would be bad for the company, TEAM members, all Stakeholders including customers and all MTS employees.  Besides, any strike requires a legal strike vote by all of the TEAM membership.   

 

Q         Will there be a lockout?

A         A lockout is the decision of the Company, not us.  In a lockout, everyone is locked out, not just some.  We are doing all we can to avoid a lockout short of abandoning the bargaining proposals and agenda set by our membership for this round of bargaining.  We have compromised and moved off issues and items to move matters along.  Even on the fundamental issues (a fairer process in the event of layoffs and more protection: limiting contractors in a meaningful fashion; a procedure to treat members better than occurred in the YPG sell off and SAP contracting out), we simply need a fair and just resolution.  The TEAM Bargaining Committee recognizes this does not mean agreeing to the exact solutions or language we have proposed, but there has to be fair, effective solutions for our member’s concerns and issues, not just empty words or a meaningless process. 

 

 Q         What is a “strategic campaign”? 

A         The strategic campaign is intended to strengthen the ability of TEAM to meet our bargaining objectives.  It is about keeping members informed and active in the bargaining process. It is also based on the premise that the company has many relationships to government, the community, its shareholders, etc.  These relationships can be influenced in order to achieve a collective agreement.  We believe that if we keep the stakeholders of MTS Allstream aware of the bargaining process then this will ensure the company is accountable and transparent in their objectives.  Communiqués to TEAM members and Stakeholders can be viewed on teamunion.mb.ca under News.  http://www.teamunion.mb.ca/renderpage.php?cat=news

 

Q         When did TEAM decide it would do a strategic campaign for this round of bargaining?

A         This was voted upon last year by TEAM members, along with the referendum to increase dues and to affiliate with IFPTE.  The majority of TEAM members voted to pursue a strategic campaign approach to bargaining, including the contacting of stakeholders.  There were many meetings and information communiqués in the workplace and to member’s homes explaining such a campaign.  Hundreds and hundreds of TEAM members attended these meetings to listen ask questions and make comments.  TEAM then put the issue to a vote of the entire membership and it passed.  TEAM has been engaged in such a campaign as part of bargaining strategy since January of this year.

 

Q         Does contacting customers as part of our campaign hurt the company?  Is it unprofessional? 

A         On the whole, customers have been appreciative and thanked us for keeping them informed about the status of bargaining.  Many have asked us to continue to do so as bargaining proceeds.  The TEAM web page contains examples of our letters sent to stakeholders and customers – to date these have been informational.  Can TEAM guarantee that a customer will not become unhappy about such contact? No.  But the company’s own actions or inaction run contrary to its professed concern about TEAM contacting customers.  The ongoing failure of the company to achieve a renewed collective agreement with TEAM and the ongoing inability to assure customers future “labour peace” adversely impacts customers.  The fact it was the company (not TEAM) that applied for conciliation and started the count down toward a possible lock-out is also of concern to customers.  The company’s history of having locked out other MTS employees has a much greater impact on customers than any TEAM activity.  And finally, the company not assuring all customers that there will be no lock-out of TEAM members similarly adversely impacts customers.  It should be the company that is fully informing customers, not keeping them in the dark.  A lock-out would have a major adverse impact on MTS Allstream.  TEAM wants to avoid such a possibility.  Sometimes, short term discomfort in order to avoid more serious long term pain is necessary and is the best way forward.  Other professionals at employers such as the Atomic Energy of Canada, Hydro One, etc. have seen fit to inform customers of the status of their bargaining.  They viewed this as their professional obligation and duty.      

 

Q         Is contacting customers & other stakeholders legal?

            Yes.  We and the company have been informed by the Canada Labour Relations Board that our contacting of customers is legal.  Other professional unions have done it as well during their bargaining without any legal challenge by the employer.

 

Q         How does contacting customers and stakeholders help achieve a collective agreement? 

A         All stakeholders have a right to know what is happening with collective bargaining.  Unfortunately, the company does not want to tell them.  We see it as our duty to our customers.  The Company is accountable to all its stakeholders, including its customers.  Knowledgeable stakeholders mean the company has to act responsibly in its dealings with its employees.  The company cannot bargain in isolation as it prefers.  Negotiations elsewhere have repeatedly demonstrated that informed stakeholders result in a fairer more equitable collective agreement for employees.     

 

Q         Are we asking for too much?  Are we compromising and trying to meet the company half way?

A         We have continued to reduce our requests and our proposals to the company; however, the company continues to bargain in a superficial manner. Our proposals are fair and reasonable. Many of our proposals already exist in collective agreements of other MTS bargaining units at MTS Allstream.

 

Q         So what is the Company’s game plan?

A         To try to get out of bargaining with the fewest and weakest changes possible.  To continue to test the will of TEAM and its membership. The Company is also playing the fear card of a possible lock-out, hoping it will diminish expectations and enable it to maintain the current status quo.

 

Q         Are there discussions around my pension plan?

A         Yes.  The company has identified their wishes to review the Pension Plan and the possibility of changing from a Defined Benefits “DB” to a Defined Contribution “DC” pension plan.  At this point the company has not made a formal presentation.  In the existing “DB” both the employee and company contribute to your pension and when you retire you have a guaranteed pension benefit.  The fund is managed on your behalf and all participants’ benefit by investment experts.  The liability is entirely with the company to provide the contracted agreed amount of pension.  You do have the choice to withdraw your portion of the money and invest it how you see fit prior to turning 55 and receiving your first pension cheque in accordance to pension laws.  In a “DC” plan both the employee and company contribute.  Once the company makes its last payment and you retire, the amount in your pension account is entirely your responsibility to invest.  There is no guaranteed benefit in a “DC” plan after your retirement. 

 

Q         Why would companies like MTS Allstream like the “DC” pension plan?

A         Companies would have a fixed cost and transfers more of the responsibility for the investment strategy from the company to the employee.  Simply the liability shifts from the Company to the employee.

 

Q         Are PLD and Vacation days part of negotiation?

A         No.

 

Q         When could the company legally lock us out?

A         The conciliator had a mandate to work with the parties until August 21st and after that, the process can be extended by mutual consent.  Further dates have been set and agreed to by both parties for August 27, 28 & 29. TEAM is committed to bargain a fair and reasonable collective agreement on behalf of their members.  If conciliation breaks down we could be locked-out by the company.  If we are unable to reach an agreement then the Conciliator will file a “no-board report” and TEAM and MTS Allstream will be in a strike/lock-out situation after 21 days following the filing of the “no-board report”.  The company can do so unilaterally (the company does not need or require our consent or agreement) and legally everyone in the TEAM bargaining unit would be locked out, not just some, whether they want to be locked out or not. 

 

Q         Would the company lock us out to impose their will at the bargaining table?

A         Time will tell, but we think this would be very bad for MTS Allstream and its customers.  But such a decision is entirely with the company.  

 

Q         What is picket pay?

A         In the event the company locks us out, TEAM members are entitled to “picket pay” if they picket at least 20 hours per week.  We believe it will be $250/week beginning after the second week. This money is tax free.

 

Q         So what is our plan to achieve a fair collective agreement?

A         We believe we can achieve a fair and equitable collective agreement with the company that address some, though not all of our issues and concerns.  The involvement and engagement of TEAM members in bargaining will go a long way in helping achieve our bargaining goals.  The strategic campaign also has a critical role to play and has produced results in other bargaining campaigns.  We have support from other unions, the broader labour movement and the community for our bargaining agenda.

 

Q         What should I be doing right now? 

A         Express your frustration with the company’s inaction to your VP, Director and Manager.  Tell them that it’s time for the company to get serious and to resolve our issues and concerns in a fair and meaningful manner. 

 

            Make sure you are informed, talk to your fellow members, speak with your Communication Action Rep, communicate with the TEAM office and members of the Bargaining Committee.  Also visit TEAM’s website  website teamunion.mb.ca and mtsallstreamwatch.info

 

 

           Your TEAM Bargaining Committee