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Overtime, Better Service Key Issues in HRM/Outside Workers’ Talks
(Sunday, June 12/05)--- Halifax Regional Municipality’s new snow and ice program should result in savings and enhanced levels of service for the taxpayers, and more predictable hours of work for its employees, Matt McPherson, HRM’s Chief Negotiator, said today.
Mr. McPherson said experience has shown that snow cannot effectively be cleared during weekdays under the present program, which has developed over the years. Outside workers, members of Local 108 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), have been paid on the basis of a 40-hour work week, with a minimum hourly premium of $4. Any snow and ice work done outside regular hours of work (nights and weekends) is paid at time-and-a-half or double time.
“No doubt about it, overtime is the key issue in these negotiations with CUPE. HRM spends between $12 million and $15 million in snow and ice costs annually. This present program results in payment of several millions of dollars in overtime each year, which can be avoided with a sensible shift arrangement, “ he said. “Simply put, the same level of service, as well as enhancements and savings in tax dollars, can be achieved with the same number of employees through a sensible change to the shift arrangements.”
Mr. McPherson said improvements can be achieved and savings could be used to enhance services and allow HRM to spend more money on other needs of the taxpayer. The benefit to the employees is they will have more predictable hours of work, and not have to endure the sometimes around-the-clock shift and overtime hours they put in now.”
Sensible Hours of Work, Some Overtime
HRM is proposing a revised shift work structure, which will continue to pay overtime initially to employees who work more than 40 hours a week, but at the same time avoid any unnecessary overtime payments. Shift preference will be by seniority and HRM has told the Union there will be no lay-offs. CUPE has refused.
The benefit to the employees is that they will have more predictable hours of work, and not have to endure the sometimes round-the-clock shift and overtime hours they put in now.
HRM Prefers Its Employees to Do The Work
He said “ HRM does not wish to contract out work that can effectively be performed by its own employees. However, CUPE says there can be no further contracting out, while at the same time it’s resisting HRM proposals to enhance the efficiency of the workforce.”
HRM has proposed changes to the collective agreement to ensure that it has the right to assign employees to perform work where, and when needed, on a short term basis--- without the requirement to post positions and award work by seniority. CUPE has refused.
The Municipality also wants the ability to appoint Lead Hands (first level supervisors) on the basis of skill and ability-not on Union seniority. CUPE has refused.
CUPE operates its own benefit plans with contributions from HRM. The Union has demanded increases in HRM contributions (50/50), without any control over future cost escalation. This is unacceptable.
Mr. McPherson said the Municipality has offered CUPE employees coverage under the existing HRM Benefit Plan, as enjoyed by hundreds of other HRM employees with a 50/50 contribution. This has been rejected by CUPE.
HRM has proposed generous monetary increases, including wages, benefits and reclassifications. Current hourly wages range from $ 15.87 to $ 22.15. (During the snow and ice operations, workers receive as a minimum an additional $4 an hour premium for their work.)
Previous Collective Agreement
Local 108’s previous three-year agreement with HRM expired in October 2004. The sides began negotiations in late 2004 and recently used the services of a provincially-appointed conciliator when they came to an impasse in talks.
For further information, please contact:
Chief Negotiator, HRM
Corporate Communications Officer