Stop two-tier workforce say Hamilton municipal workers

    HAMILTON, Nov. 22 /CNW Telbec/ - City of Hamilton workers, represented by
the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), are determined to stop the
two-tier employment scheme currently practiced by city management. The issue
of precarious employment and the casualization of work at the city will be the
main focus of upcoming mediation talks between the union and city
    "The use of casual workers must end, as it is discriminatory and
unacceptable," said Derron Vernon, president of CUPE 5167. "Casual workers are
treated as second-class citizens, with different rates of compensation, less
benefits and workplace rights, even though they work for the same city and
perform the same duties as their full-time colleagues." Maintaining a two-tier
workforce relying heavily on casual positions demoralizes staff and leads to
tensions in the workplace, undermines the quality of services as training and
promotion opportunities are lost and recruitment becomes difficult.
    Casual employment was introduced in the city as an interim measure to
deal with staff shortages caused by higher than expected early retirements,
during amalgamation. This interim measure of allowing 10 per cent of
department staff to be casual workers was a short-term arrangement to deal
with an unusually large number of job vacancies. However, over the years,
management has abused this privilege and created a second tier of over
400 'casual' staff, some with over six years of service, without the benefits
and rights accorded to full-time city workers.
    Bargaining talks between the city and the union reached a stalemate last
week when the city tabled a proposal to double the hiring of casual workers to
20 per cent of the workforce. "Knowing full well the union's position to end
casual employment, city representatives deliberately introduced the new
proposal to play hardball with us," said Vernon. "It became very clear to us
that city negotiators had no respect for the workers and the union."
    Union representatives requested a 'no-board' report from the provincial
conciliator, triggering a countdown to a lockout or a legal strike. The
workers' last contract expired on December 31, 2006. Many outstanding issues
remain, including wages, benefits and many others, because city negotiators
repeatedly cancelled, rescheduled and refused dates to meet, resulting in only
eight unproductive meetings since the contract expired.
    "It speaks volumes about the attitude of the city when they entrust a
part-time outside consultant, which is another form of casual worker, to be
their chief negotiator," said Vernon. "City leaders must take the upcoming
mediation talks seriously and change their casual attitude toward their own
workers, otherwise there will be labour unrest." Mediation talks are planned
for November 29 and 30.

    The over 2,700 inside and outside workers provide a wide range of
services, including public works, planning, public health inspection, social
services, clinical dieticians and dental hygienist services, building and
contract inspections, administration services, child and youth services, waste
collection, water distribution, court monitoring, sewers and sanitation,
wastewater maintenance, parks and pool maintenance, arenas operations,
municipal law enforcement, mechanic and welding services, animal control,
winter roads snow plowing, sanding and salting services and others.

For further information:

For further information: Derron Vernon, President CUPE 5167, (905)
517-0448 cell; Andrew Hunter, CUPE National Representative, (905) 575-5411,
(905) 531-7599 cell; James Chai, CUPE Communications, (416) 292-3999

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