I would like to update you about the ongoing conversations and negotiations we are having with your employer regarding returning back to work as well as benefits.
As you know, the employer did not extend benefits beyond June 30, 2020 for BCGEU members despite our request that they continue. While choosing to allow your benefits to end they did however extend benefits to their managers and non-union employees.
The employer and the union have been in discussions and negotiations on an agreement to transition from the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). In these discussions our position has always been that the collective agreement language and benefits negotiated would continue to apply to our members despite the transition.
The employer has reported that other unions have negotiated agreements in which those union employees have had their benefits extended. The BCGEU does not know whether those unions took concessions or agreed to terms that limit their members' access to recall and severance, but we do know that the employer asked the BCGEU to do this and we did not agree. We are not prepared to take concession on your job security, recall rights and severance pay.
We continue to negotiate to reach an agreement and have worked weekends and even on Canada Day to get closer to a deal. Our priority is to get you back on benefits and to ensure that your transition from CERB to CEWS is done as per the terms and conditions of your collective agreement.
We know that you have a lot of questions, and we are going to try to address some of the common ones:
Why should we move to CEWS when CERB is already providing me with
a federal wage subsidy?
Under CEWS, you are back on the employer payroll and the terms and
of the collective agreement apply. For many of you this means benefits,
accrual of vacation and access to notice in case of a layoff. The extension of
CERB in July came with a requirement to start seeking employment. CEWS
would not require you to seek employment as you are already on your company
payroll, albeit at 75% of your regular remuneration. CEWS has been extended
to December 31, 2020 whereas, as of today, CERB ends for most of you on
August 29, 2020.
Why did the employer end benefits?
The employer, when asked by the union, agreed to extend benefits to the end
of April and when we asked again, they extended benefits in May and again in
June. We asked them to extend benefits to July and they said it was conditional
on the union agreeing to move from CERB to CEWS. The union began
discussions in order to ensure benefits would continue to July, however the
employer demanded concessions be made on your access to recall and
severance. The parties continued to negotiate and as we came closer to
June 30th, we asked that benefits be extended while we continued to negotiate
on the terms but Gateway cut your benefits effective June 30th.
Does Gateway have to pay benefits while I am on CERB?
While on CERB, you are no longer on the employer payroll and considered to be
'on leave'. Under the terms of the current collective agreement (that was
negotiated before a full casino closure was ever considered) when employees
are on leave, they are responsible for paying their premiums and the employer’s
premiums for benefits. When the casino closed mid-March, the union asked the
employer to extend benefits to the end of the month. They did not agree to do
that. The union then negotiated an agreement to have benefits extended to the
end of April and the employer agreed to do that with the provisions that
approved vacation, sick leave and lieu banks would not be paid out until either
the member returned back to work or terminated. The extension in May and
June occurred because the union lobbied the employer to continue paying.
Why do Great Canadian Casino employees have benefits to August 31
and Gateway ended our benefits June 30?
Great Canadian Casino (GCC) sites in Coquitlam, Richmond and Victoria are
BCGEU certifications. Just like we did with Gateway, we asked them to continue
benefits while members are on CERB. GCC stepped up and agreed to extend
benefits. They took the lead and extended benefits in April and May. Gateway
followed at first, however, when GCC extended benefits to July 31 and then to
August 31, Gateway did not. Instead, they made the extension of benefits
conditional to an agreement from the union to take concessions on your
collective agreement. They want to move all their employees from CERB to
CEWS. Their original proposal was written to eliminate your access to recall and
severance rights that have already been negotiated in the collective agreement.
Gateway wants you to give away your negotiated rights and they used the
continuation of benefits to leverage that. GCC did not do that and that is why
we say GCC took a leadership role in supporting their employees.
We continue to negotiate to reach an agreement and to get your benefits reinstated and we will continue to work weekends and put in long days to achieve it. Our priority is to get you back on benefits as soon as possible and to ensure that your transition from CERB to CEWS is done as per the terms and conditions of your collective agreement without taking concessions that would take away entitlement you have rights to such as recall and severance.
We will continue to keep you updated as we get more information and to fight for the language in your agreement to be followed.
We are monitoring the situation closely and will be in touch again soon with what we hope to be good news for you and your family.
Dave MacDonald, Component 17 VP
Casino Return to Work Planning committees
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