COPE 378's David Black readies for battle with province over labour negotiations
A major union is warning of a possible labour battle ahead if the provincial government doesn't “come to its senses” as B.C. heads into 250,000 contract negotiations this year – including 43,000 hospital workers who started bargaining on Tuesday.
David Black, president of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) local 378 – which represents 14,000 B.C. workers, including those with no contracts at BC Hydro, BC Transit, ICBC and Capilano University – spoke to the Vancouver Observer about the role of today's labour movement in the Age of Austerity.
“The old adage is, 'You prepare for the worst and hope for the best,'” Black said in his Burnaby office. “That's what we're doing.
“We are preparing for some sort of a dispute with the government, but seriously hoping that the government does come to its senses, and starts to reverse some of these policies that have caused British Columbians so much trouble in the last decade.”
Spring labour disputes
Those policies, he said, include increasing privatization, fewer union protections, the carving up of crown corporations and a hardened attitude towards unions from the BC Liberals. Although he insists his own union's membership – which is half-public, half-private sector workers – has weathered the past decade of workplace changes, he and other labour leaders are frustrated with the government insistence there is not enough money.
“They turn around and tell the people providing services of British Columbia, 'Oh, sorry – there's no money for you – there's money for all these other things, there's money for myself to get a wage increase, but there's no money for you,'” Black said. “That's just not right, and I think there's going to be a very interesting situation this spring, because certainly our members are not going to put up with that, and I'm certain other public sector workers are not going to put up with that.
“They're tired of getting blamed for government mistakes.”