By Amy Fendley Providing information on the terms and conditions available to Whistler’s golf course employees is the goal of the Service Employees International Union Local 244. "We’re just letting employees know there are other options out there," said Roger Fitzpatrick, SEIU business agent representing Local 244. The union has been running half-page advertisements in a local paper, letting golf course workers know they are around, but Fitzpatrick says there is no active campaign to organize local workers. But speaking from the SEIU office in Burnaby, Fitzpatrick acknowledged he has been preparing a strategy for six months. The SEIU has chosen a method of canvassing involving advertising in the local paper, as opposed to making divots on the local turf. "We’re not trying to pull any heavy-duty deals, we are not going to be forceful," said Fitzpatrick. "The SEIU has been representing service workers for 50 years." Fitzpatrick maintains it is important to let service workers know there is more protection and options available to them than simply developing an independent contract with their employer. "There are a lot of high profile golf courses in the Whistler area," said Fitzpatrick. "We’re not trying to be forceful, we’re just providing the information to let them (golf course workers) know there are other options. Some employees may feel that things are operating under good terms and conditions. So we’re just letting everybody know." The SEIU currently represents 16 golf courses throughout the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Rod Cochrane, head golf professional at Nicklaus North Golf Course, acknowledged the union’s presence. "We are aware the union is canvassing the various golf courses in the area," said Cochrane. "We, on an ongoing basis, try to create the best work environment possible for our employees and we hope that if there are any shortcomings we can rectify them without having to look to a union." One of the main problems within the golf industry, according to Fitzpatrick, is that employment is seasonal and fluctuates year to year, based on demand, leaving many employees with little job security. "Golf course workers operate on a very seasonal basis. In the golf industry job security is very much a key issue," said Fitzpatrick. "We want to let people know that we’re around and I want to see what the interests are and if we can help each other. "In the (golf) industry you never know from year to year if you’re going to be brought back. Another key issue we deal with is layoff and recall protection — especially in a place like Whistler where golf courses are even more seasonal than down here." Fitzpatrick said that currently there is a national trend towards organizing traditionally non-union service industries, seen in recent cases like Lower Mainland Starbucks operations and the Squamish McDonald’s restaurant. "We’re seeing unionization of many generally transitional jobs as people stay in them longer, because there are not as many out there."

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