NOVEMBER 13, 2016
WHY DOES THE CITY NOT WANT TO RESOLVE OUR DISPUTE ON OUR COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT?
The city released their version on Facts on Transit Negotiations. I have attached a copy of their document for your ability to reference their statements.
1. If the transit union accepts the City’s deal is there back pay? Both our proposal and the cities indicate that back pay is payable.
2. Will I get this back pay all at once? Our proposal is that any member that worked any part of the timeframe from Jan. 1 ,2013 to current is entitled to back pay and it would be paid all at once.
3. The city decided not to pay the workers for the last two weeks of the illegal lockout. That is correct. The matter is before the courts and a decision is expected soon on whether the current ruling from the labor board remains intact or whether the courts will order a new labor board hearing on the matter.
4. Can the city force a vote on this offer? The city has stated that they themselves cannot. The minister or the employees may require a vote. Our membership has spoken to this issue at special meetings indicating by over 90% that they are not wanting to vote on the offer that included signing the employers pension agreement in principle under their terms.
5. I have heard the city is making wholesale changes to the pension plan. Does this mean I am going to lose my pension? Under the city proposal they are shifting liabilities and risk from the city to the members. There are two changes that enable them to transfer this risk. It is because of the language that allows the city to cap their contributions, and also a dispute resolution clause that simply states in the event the parties are unable to agree on plan changes, then a third party would determine which future service benefits would be cut, to ensure the plan could be supported within 9% funding from both parties. This potential cutting of future service benefits would also include any special payments the city would normally be required to make. Make no mistake. This is an extreme design change from what we have had in place since 1964. The city is saying don’t worry about this wording. We will still continue to bargain, if and when we get to this point. We do know that we will continue to bargain, but all they simply will be telling the group of us is that we signed this deal and have agreed to all the terms and conditions. Hence the dispute resolution clause will be invoked and a third party will tell us what benefits to reduce, or potentially the members of the plan would pay more, and not necessarily would the city have to contribute more ,because their rates are capped. Our Agreement in principle states that in the event we get to the point that we agree changes are necessary in the future, then we will simply bargain these changes as we have done since 1964. We would not be subjected or confined to work within the 9% per side contribution rates and we would also not be legally responsible for any shortfalls within the pension plan. This is the wholesale change that means if the plan funding does not meet the target, then changes must be made by the members to work within the target. Hence this is still a defined benefit, without a guarantee that future service will never be reduced. If you believe the city will ever bargain more money into the plan beyond 9% then I have some oceanfront property in Saskatchewan for sale. The chief negotiator stated to us at the bargaining table that they will never put more than 9% into any city pension plan, and I believe him. Why do you think this pension language is so valuable to the city?
6. I have heard the pension plan will change and it will not be a defined benefit plan. Is That true?
The plan will still be registered as a defined benefit plan. The wording and agreements contained within the agreement in principle effectively change the risk structure to the members and also force the plan to function as a target benefit plan. Technically it is a defined benefit without a guarantee. In Murray Totland’s own words he has publicly stated that ATU is wanting something better or different than what the other 8 unions have settled for. It is clear that what all members have had since 1964 is better than what he is offering ATU members today.
7. In a media release, titled City remains firm after ATU executive pulls away from promises city-remains-firm the city states Quote (Unfortunately, the ATU executive retrenched its position on the pension changes and now says it will not accept the pension changes or the future sustainability plan for the pension) First off, ATU 615 has not pulled away from any promises. The city is attempting to discredit the current executive by suggesting we have somehow altered our position. Quite some time ago, discussions during bargaining took place about setting aside the pension issue and living to fight that battle another day, because the changes have already been imposed and there is no further sense of urgency in relation to the pension. Based on what ATU believed to be a general consensus that we could conceivably agree to settling all other issues, that the pension could be dealt with in the future, we continued bargaining the remaining outstanding issues. Upon resuming negotiations, the next day, we were informed that the city has retrenched their position and stated that we were going to sign their pension proposal once again. To insinuate that our executive has pulled away from promises is in gentle terms inaccurate. Nonetheless, I want you to know what our proposal given to the city on Tuesday November 8, 2016. atu-offer-for-settlement This proposal was what we believed to be way of resolving our outstanding issue of pension changes fairly and in the best interests of our members, the transit users, citizens of Saskatoon, Eight other unions and associations, and the political leaders of Saskatoon responsible for making decisions in the best interests of all citizens. ATU 615 and the city presented evidence in front of a 3 person arbitration panel in April of 2016, and are awaiting a decision from the board. The question the panel will be answering is a simple question in our eyes. The question is the city made changes to ATU 615 pension plan without consent through the bargaining process. The answer we are all awaiting is whether our language in the collective agreement together with all the evidence presented by both the city and ourselves at the hearing, supports our position or the cities. ATU is stating that the city did not have the legal authority to make the changes without our consent, and the city has argued that they were legally entitled to impose those changes without our consent. All parties are eventually going to receive the decision, anywhere from potentially tomorrow onwards in the near future I would expect. What our proposal that we gave to the city achieves is it allows both parties to rely on that decision to settle this disagreement. In the event ATU loses the arbitration, we agree to sign the cities proposed pension language in their agreement in principle. See appendix B atu-offer-for-settlement In the event the arbitration rules in the unions favor, then the city will sign our version of the agreement in principle. See appendix A atu-offer-for-settlement. Both pension agreement in principles state that all the changes made to the plan and registered would not change. Even though we could and have the ability to challenge the necessity of the changes, we could agree under this proposal that the changes to the plan would be agreeable to our members, identical to what the other group of 8 are currently agreed to. The difference between our wording in our agreement in principle and the city’s wording is the capping of rate and dispute resolution wording disappears, and in place our wording states that any further changes to the plan will be negotiated. This wording change is what this whole dispute is centered around. It is our opinion that a fair way of resolving this dispute is to simply allow the third party decision to determine which agreement in principle is accepted and settle this contract. Neither party is limited in the future from any legal appeals of the arbitration decision, and neither the city or the union is prevented from putting forth any bargaining language in future negotiations. In our eyes, a completely neutral third party will resolve this and all parties win. It is obvious that the city is not confident they are going to win this decision, otherwise they would have accepted this agreement. What I don’t understand is why the city decision makers would not accept this as a fair way of settling this agreement, as the term of this agreement runs out in a month and a half, and there are no urgent financial implications for the city. Instead what they continue to do is hold our members back pay as leverage to continue to try and force these pension changes on us. They are also now attempting to turn our members and the citizens against us for refusing to work overtime, once again knowing transit users may be impacted. This treatment of its workers and the citizens lies solely in the hands of city council. It is time that this be resolved before more citizens are impacted. What are you afraid of city council? Do the right thing and accept our proposal by simply allowing a third party to decide and live with the decision.
ATU IS PREPARED TO DO JUST THAT.
ATU 615 Executive Board