Wood Buffalo continues to push for fly-by-night contractors over employees

FORT MCMURRAY – As the lockout of Wood Buffalo Housing (WBH) employees reaches the two-month mark, bargaining between CUPE 1505 and the housing authority continues at a slow pace.

Earlier today, Wood Buffalo Housing issued a news release outlining its perspective on how bargaining has progressed.  CUPE 1505 President Judy Collier was unimpressed. “They did not provide accurate information” said Collier.  “For instance, three members have been moved to the Rotary House Collective Agreement, not two.”

Collier said CUPE remains committed to fighting for employees who are committed to the region instead of replacing them with “low wage contractors.”

“The union is committed to increasing its pressure campaign.” Collier said.  Union advertising was expanded on Friday to movie theatres, and that they are looking at bringing pressure on WBH board members.

“The WBH board members have been too quiet,” said Collier. “They can take a stand and end this mistreatment of their employees. We’re not prepared to let them hide much longer.”


Wood Buffalo Housing bans public from “public meeting”

FORT MCMURRAY – Last night Wood Buffalo Housing (WBH) closed its public meeting and relocated behind closed and locked doors in a transparent attempt to avoid coming face to face with its employees.

The corporation locked out employees on May 10th as part of an attempt to replace long time employees with fly-by-night contractors.

“The meeting was scheduled for a public location and the board moved it without notice,” said CUPE Local 1505 President Judy Collier.  “Their ‘public’ meeting ended up at the provincial building behind locked doors.”

Union representatives learned of the move and set up a picket line in front of the building hoping to have a few words with board members as they crossed the line.

“Most board members, including Chair Maggie Farrington, crossed the picket line without agreeing to talk to their employees,” said Collier.

Collier said one board member did stop to talk and indicated that he thought management was trying to meet with the union’s bargaining team.

“He looked surprised when I informed him that they were not trying to meet with us,” Collier said.

Collier said employees wanted to let board members know fourteen (14) management positions cost WBH a similar amount to thirty-nine (39) union positions they are trying to replace with fly-by-night contractors.  CUPE asked WBH management to confirm these numbers on June 6 and has not yet received a response.

“Many residents have reached out to us with stories and pictures of unmanaged properties that are falling into disrepair, including garbage cans overflowing, unsightly yards that haven’t been mowed in weeks,” said Collier. “One resident even got stuck in a broken elevator.”

Collier said residents are complaining that it is nearly impossible to get in touch with WBH regarding their concerns.

“Our members care about the residents,” she said. “They just want to go back to work and serve the residents and their community.”

Wood Buffalo Housing pays only lip service to talks – CUPE

FORT MCMURRAY – The union representing 46 locked out employees of Wood Buffalo Housing (WBH) says the employer is still refusing to engage in serious discussion to end the lockout, despite finally agreeing to meet face to face.

CUPE 1505 President Judy Collier said her union met with WBH today at the request of the company, but they wouldn’t engage in meaningful bargaining.

The employees have been locked out since May 10th in a dispute over the future of 26 positions WBH wants to contract to fly-by-night operators. Until today, Wood Buffalo has refused to engage in negotiations to end the dispute.

“Wood Buffalo Housing is clearly intent on damaging our community by replacing family supporting jobs with fly-by-night contractors,” said Collier. “Residents of the WBH properties are already seeing a dramatic drop in the level of service and care of their homes.”

Collier said CUPE went to the bargaining table to discuss the employer’s financial situation and find ways to avoid eliminating positions but said the Employer will still not consider keeping all 26 CUPE members and wants the right to replace additional CUPE members with contractor as the positions become vacant.

Wood Buffalo Housing wants more and more non-unionized, fly-by-night contractors. This hurts our members and it hurts our community.”

Negotiations have broken off but CUPE says it will return to the table anytime if WBH is willing to talk seriously about saving unionized positions and preserving the level of care and service to the community.

Wood Buffalo Housing members take to the radio

FORT MCMURRAY – CUPE members locked out by their employer at Wood Buffalo Housing are featured in two new radio ads that went on the air today in the Fort McMurray region.

The ads feature a maintenance person, a housekeeper and a groundskeeper, all of whom have effectively lost their jobs to fly-by-night contractors retained by the housing corporation.

“Like all the locked out employees, these three are part of our community, and they want to work for their residents,” said CUPE 1505 President Judy Collier.  “They are standing up for Wood Buffalo in a way their employer is not.”

For more information visit www.standforwoodbuffalo.ca.

Hear the radio ads here and here.


City needs to save transport for the disabled

GRANDE PRAIRIE – News that the Disabled Transportation Society (DTS) will be limited to only essential services as early as Friday and may completely close in June is alarming to the union representing DTS drivers.

CUPE 787 President Randy Wald said that while he is concerned for his members, the bigger concern is for the disabled residents who depend on the service.

“Disabled residents of Grande Prairie depend upon this service to get around,” said Wald. “If the service is lost, the disabled will become trapped in their own homes, limiting their ability to participate in Grande Prairie’s active community.”

Wald believes the cancellation is a direct result of City neglect, pointing to a recent budget cut that left DTS without enough funds to operate. CUPE is calling on the City to either bring the service in house or increase funding to the operator immediately.

“The City needs to step up and make sure the disabled community don’t get left behind.”

CUPE response to Onex deal

CUPE response to Onex deal

CALGARY – The union representing almost 4,000 cabin crew members at WestJet and Encore expressed guarded optimism about the company’s sale to Onex.  However, CUPE 4070 President Chris Rauenbusch expressed some concern about the future of the employee share holder plan.

“WestJet is a Canadian business success story, building from a small regional carrier to one of the world’s foremost airlines,” said Rauenbusch.  “We hope Onex will continue to develop WestJet to its full potential as an airline industry leader.”

“The good news is that Onex is looking to maintain WestJet as a Calgary based airline. They’ve committed to no job losses and to WestJet’s expansion plans. We will hold them to that promise.”

“We are concerned about what this deal means to the future of the employee share purchase plan, which is uncertain at the moment,” said Rauenbusch. “As employees without a pension plan, many Cabin Crew members rely upon their shares for a dignified retirement. “

Rauenbusch said CUPE will attempt to resolve the employee shareholder issue in bargaining for a new collective agreement, which has been underway since April.

Contact: Lou Arab
Communications Representative

Radio ads start today for locked out housing employees

CUPE pledges further campaign tactics to follow

FORT MCMURRAY – Stand for Wood Buffalo.

That’s the theme of an advertising campaign launched today by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in support of locked out employees of Wood Buffalo Housing.

The 46 employees were locked out by the housing corporation last night. The corporation wants to replace the employees with fly-by-night contractors who pay minimum wage.

CUPE Local 1505 President Judy Collier said the aim of the advertising campaign is to warn the public about the impact of trading good jobs for poor services.

“If we let Wood Buffalo Housing use whatever fly-by-night contractor they can find from Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto or elsewhere, we will see our properties fall into disrepair and disrepute,” said Collier. “These employees are standing up for Wood Buffalo and for tenants, because somebody has to.”

Collier said the advertising campaign will continue until the employer settles the dispute. She said the current radio ad is only the beginning, and more advertising and other tactics will follow very soon.

The radio ad will run on 93.3 Country, 97.9 Rock, Cruz FM and Mix 103.7.

You can download and listen to the radio ad here.

Wood Buffalo Housing pushes staff to the street – Lockout notice served to employees

FORT MCMURRAY – Wood Buffalo Housing (WBH) served its 49 employees lock out notice today, meaning that as of Friday at 4:30 pm, employees will be forced to hit the picket lines.

CUPE Local 1505 President Judy Collier said her members do not want to stop serving residents and the community, but the WBH is forcing their hands.

“Wood Buffalo Housing wants to lay off groundskeepers, maintenance staff, and housekeepers and replace them with minimum wage contractors without benefits,” said Collier. “Not only will that not save money, it will result in poorly maintained properties. And nobody is better off with that.”

“This is not about wages. This is about our members wanting to do what they were hired to do – take care of residents and their homes.”

Collier said CUPE knows from past experience that contracting out doesn’t actually save any money, as most of the lost wages are still paid to the contractor.

“It’s better to just pay staff a living wage and get better service for it.”

Collier says her members are ready to stand up for residents, even if it means getting locked out by their employer.

“If WBH wants to save money, they can and should work with their employees to find efficiencies,” said Collier. “That’s how you build a strong company, and how you serve your residents best.”

“Someone has to stand up for our community here, because WBH sure isn’t.”


Lou Arab, Communications Representative