Sep 09, 2010

Union seeks answers on BC Assessment office closures

Cost savings unproven, 20 staff forced to relocate from Penticton and Vernon with few options

PENTICTON—Nearly a year after the plan was first announced, BC Assessment has yet to answer key questions regarding the closure of its offices in Penticton and Vernon, effective this month, which has forced 20 staff to relocate to Kelowna while inconveniencing the public, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“Since we first learned of the closures, we have been seeking information from the employer on many issues of relevance both to our members and the public,” says CUPE 1767 president Kevin McPhail.

“But BC Assessment has stonewalled us at every turn—failing to provide any information on cost savings to the public, and overstating its commitment to our members in interviews with the media and statements to politicians. For example, they say they’re offering flexibility but have yet to explore flexible work options such as a compressed work week or telework for all transferred employees.”

In July, BC Assessment and CUPE 1767 reached a two-year agreement that included no wage increases.

“The office closures were never an issue in bargaining,” says McPhail. “We bargained in good faith on the understanding that our concerns around the closures would be addressed. To date, this has not happened.”

McPhail notes that the employer has said it would explore information counters in Vernon and Penticton as a result of efforts by the Union to raise the profile of the closure issue.

“That is misleading. In fact, this idea was floated in the media by the employer just two weeks after the closure announcement,” says McPhail. “As with the decision to close, there was no consultation with the union on this issue.”

CUPE 1767 has a pending FOI request for documents pertaining to the contract schedules and lease information about the Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon offices.

COPE 491