Union raiding OK say former naysayers 

Christian-based union eyes GM Place workers

A union representing Sea to Sky highway workers that cried foul when another union attempted to raid its members in January is singing a different tune now that it’s trying the same tactics.

"We defend the raiding process itself," said a Christian Labour Association of Canada spokesperson of the association’s attempt to entice members of Orca Bay Local 40, the 450 security, maintenance and custodial workers of General Motors Place in Vancouver.

"We think if there is an opportunity to switch that unions become more accountable and their services increase," said CLAC’s Kevin Jeske.

The members, whose contract expires Sept. 30, are unhappy with representation, says Local 40’s president.

"The people who are leading the charge appear to be our very own shop stewards," Bill Pearson said. The president said he has asked stewards to consider a third-party mediator, such as Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, to hear their concerns. Pearson said if Sinclair or another mediator found Local 40 representation to be insufficient he would take the unprecedented step of recommending the union stand aside to allow another B.C. Federation union to step in.

"Rather than see these folks go to a union (like the CLAC) that as far as I know has never had a strike and which many people refer to as employer dominated," he said.

Two months ago CLAC condemned attempts by the Teamsters, Engineers and Labourers (TEL) Group to lure Sea to Sky highway workers away from CLAC, complaining about TEL Group’s "slagging" and intimidation tactics, like driving a 40-foot tractor trailer onto construction sites.

TEL Group ultimately did not receive enough signatures to take representation to a vote.

An independent union and not a member of the B.C. Federation of Labour – whose members are obliged not to cherry pick from fellow federation unions – CLAC is trying to capitalize on an opportunity employees have two months of every year to replace their incumbent union if dissatisfied. According to provincial labour standards, CLAC must sign 55 per cent of Orca Bay’s Local 40 membership in order to provoke a vote over which union should represent them. CLAC can make an application to the provincial labour board April 3. The earliest a vote could take place would be on April 12.

Although it espouses values of integrity, fairness and dignity, CLAC is not affiliated with any church or political party. It has about 11,500 members in B.C. working in transportation, service and manufacturing sectors.

Local 40’s Pearson said the shop stewards have refused his offer to bring in a third-party mediator.

"We’re fighting it tooth and nail and of course it’s like scooping up mercury," Pearson said.

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