Telephone Town Hall – your questions, our answers

ccooper Uncategorized

Thank you to everyone who participated in the telephone town hall meeting Monday evening. There were a number of questions asked by members after we ran out of time. We will try to get to as many of them as possible.

Here are some of them. They may be edited for clarity or brevity. Some questions, asked by more than one member, have not been repeated.

1. Della from Vancouver

I think you guys are doing a great job. So keep up the good work, you guys all sound so professional. I used to work for American Airlines and I’m so happy that we’re finally getting a union that going to represent us. We need this so badly and it’s so funny how people are so worried about the dues, but we do need dues. Amazing job guys, keep up the good work.

Our response:

That’s great to hear.  We are as strong as our members and we think that makes us a pretty solid group!

2. Unknown caller

If we don’t have dues now, how are the Executive members being paid for their work? Is CUPE National covering their wages? Why can’t they keep doing that?

Our response:

Thanks for the question. Executive members are not being paid for union work at the moment. They are working for free. In fact, they have to occasionally give up shifts to attend union meetings.

3. Helene from Calgary

I have two questions that were not answered. I understand the need for 1.95% in dues to help start up the local. But once the local is up and running, would you be lowering that dues.  How much money per year is that?

Also, I come from a very unionized environment as a teacher. So I really don’t understand how someone that is not a member in good standing can work as a flight attendant. As a teacher you need to be a member in good standing and be a voting member in order to teach in a classroom. If you work in the film industry it’s the same thing. So how come this is totally different here?

Finally, about bargaining. The survey was not very specific so I hope that before you do something you would consult us with more details.

Would you be using the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that was written up before as a basis for negotiations?

Our response:

Thanks for all your excellent questions. We’ll try our best to answer them.

By-laws can be changed at anytime with a vote of the membership. We have the ability to change the dues rate in the future to reflect our needs at any given time.

Regarding non-members and members. Right now, we are in what is called an ‘open shop.’  Which in Canada means everyone pays dues and those that choose to be become members. More established unions negotiate ‘closed shop’ provisions into their contracts that make union membership a condition of employment. Since we don’t yet have a contract, we can’t enforce a closed shop.

While we have an open shop at the moment, this is not to be confused with the concept of ‘right to work’ which comes from some US states. In those states, unions cannot be forced to collect dues from anyone. This has the effect of starving the union of funds. Imagine the state of our schools and hospitals if we could choose to not pay taxes. In Canada, the default is to the “Rand formula” which is what we are currently working under unless we negotiate closed shop provisions into our collective agreement.

With regards to bargaining, we will bring forward our opening proposals to the membership before we start to bargain. Please understand that this will be our first offer to the company, and not likely what we will present at the end. At the end of bargaining, we will bring forward the agreement for a vote of all members. In between those two moments, we may choose to go dark about the details of bargaining until there is a package to present.

Finally, in relation to the amount of dues any given CCM will pay under the 1.95% proposed, please see the table below. All Union dues are tax deductible.

  Current Hourly Rate Dues per pay based on 80 hours per month with no pickups or drops* Dues per hour +/- for pick-up or drop
Step 1 $25.54 $18.39 $0.50/hour
Step 2 $28.38 $20.43 $0.55/hour
Step 3 $30.12 $21.68 $0.59/hour
Step 4 $31.96 $23.01 $0.62/hour
Step 5 $33.92 $24.42 $0.66/hour
Step 6 $35.99 $25.91 $0.70/hour
Step 7 $38.20 $27.50 $0.75/hour
Step 8 $40.54 $29.19 $0.79/hour
Step 9 $43.02 $30.97 $0.84/hour
Step 10 $45.65 $32.87 $0.89/hour
Step 11 $48.45 $34.88 $0.95/hour

*Should CCM drop or pick up, dues will increase or decrease accordingly per hour.

 4. Patel, base unknown

You guys are doing an amazing job. Thank you for the town hall, and the information, it was very informative. I do have a question. If WestJet doesn’t allow the dues to be taking place, will we ask for a loan from CUPE National to fund the events and things we need to afford? What would be our contingency plan?

Our response:

In the event the company is not willing to deduct dues until a contract is ratified, Local 4070 would request a “dispensation” of dues from CUPE National.  If granted, this would allow us to operate without paying dues in the interim, and CUPE National would know that we tried, and that they employer is not cooperating. The exact terms of finances for the Local would be dealt with at that time. The intention of your Executive is to avoid any loan or repayment plan through any means necessary.

5. Name unknown

Hi there, I’m wondering if dues can be a set rate instead of 1.95% coming off of each cheque. Because that would mean that some people are paying more than others. So wouldn’t a proper set amount of say, $10 per cheque, be right?

Our response:

The CUPE National constitution states:

All Local and Provincial Unions chartered after January 1, 1982 must institute an income-related dues structure. The dues must cover per capita tax, affiliation fees and funds needed to operate the Local or Provincial Union.” (CUPE National Constitution Sec B.4.3(b))

In plain language, this means dues must be a percentage of each CCMs overall income. Those with higher income contribute a higher dollar amount towards dues, those with lower income contribute a lower amount. It’s based on the same concept as taxes: those who make more can afford to pay slightly more than those who make less.

Flat rate dues leave CCMs with the lowest income contributing the highest proportion of their earnings. Since the early 1980s, CUPE has operated on the principle that flat rates pose undue hardship on the lowest earners.

6. Lisa from Mississauga

Just want to confirm (I’ve never worked in a union environment before) you’re asking us to pay dues ahead of having a collective agreement signed, regardless of how long that time frame could be, two to three years? Also, the bargaining survey results, when will they be released or posted?

Our response:

Yes, your understanding is correct. There are significant costs to running the local and negotiating a contract and the local needs funding to be able to do it in meaningful way.

The bargaining survey results have just been delivered to the President, and he and the Executive will meet to go over the results soon. Your elected Bargaining Committee members will meet in February for the first time. We intend to release the results to the membership once the committee has had an opportunity to review them.

7. Pam from Calgary

I’m part of the on-board operations team. I’m just curious as to how the dues will be collected from Cabin Managers and OOT members, given that the company has put in this stoppage of us being a part of the bargaining unit and we haven’t heard back from the CIRB yet. So, will we be having dues deducted from us? I know we don’t actually have CUPE per se representing us (kinda, sorta) at this time.

Our response:

Thanks for the excellent question. We cannot legally collect dues from these employees until we have the legal right to represent them.  That right will not come until the CIRB issues a decision.

8. Beckie

Is there any talk of doing a forensic audit on our pay? I know our paycheques are, all the time, just about every pay is a mess. I was wondering if we could get that done.  I also have a question about ready reserves, and when they are allowed to assign it. I had a no show and I just want to talk to someone about how I get that removed.

Our response:

Thanks for the suggestion. We will give it full consideration. Regardless of the status of our contract, an employer is obligated to pay employees the correct amount. If you feel that your cheque is incorrect, or that you have been mistreated by Westjet in anyway – please contact your Base VP for assistance. We’d like to help. Regarding your no-show, your Base VP can help with that too.

9. Zahara from Calgary

Chris mentioned that they learned stuff from the pilots’ contract. a) What was learned, what did they do right, what did they do wrong, etc. and b) I filled out a survey saying what was going to be in our contract, but it was just questions. So what is going to be in this contract? It hasn’t been listed exactly what we are going for. Are we going for wage increases? If so, what percentage because now we have to offset these union dues.  Second, are we going for higher per diems, like what is in this contract? Because all we’ve done is filled out a survey, but we don’t exactly know what the Executive committee is going to put in this contract. So if we could have a list of exactly what’s being put into this contract, so we know what we are voting for, or weather or not we want to pay these dues.  Because if we don’t agree to the contract, maybe it’s not what we are looking for at this time.

Thirdly, if we are paying all this money for the Executive team to take all these courses, is it just for the Executive team? Or can I participate in these courses as well? Because I too want to empower myself and have this knowledge as well. I too want to be entitled to these courses as well.

Our response:

Thanks for the excellent questions. In regard to the exact strategy we employ, that must still be discussed and formulated with the elected Bargaining Committee. We have some ideas of how to best move forward based on what we know of the Pilots’ strategy. If you would like to reach out to Chris, his email is president.cupe4070@gmail.com and he would be happy to discuss this with you in a less public forum.

Regarding ‘exactly what is in the contract?’ It is not up to the Executive to decide what is in the contract. The process works like this:

  • We survey our members, get a sense of what are the most important issues.
  • We prepare bargaining proposals. We take the proposals to the membership for their comments and approval.
  • We then present our (perhaps modified) proposals to WestJet. They present their proposals to us.
  • We negotiate. We talk about each proposal, the pros and cons of it. We try to find ways to make our proposals work so the employer will sign off. We push them as far as we can to improve our contract according to what members tell us is most important to them.
  • Hopefully, we come to an agreement on a contract with WestJet. We take that to the membership for a vote. If 50%+1 of the membership approve, the contract is ratified and in place.

We need dues to be able to go forward in this process with resources. Negotiating Committee members will not be paid by WestJet to attend negotiations.

Regarding training, Absolutely! CUPE National is currently paying for training of our elected representatives. Once the Local has funds coming in via dues, our view is that educated members are happy and engaged members. That is the role of the Education Committee, to engage members in CUPE educational seminars and courses. We can’t wait to get members like you up and running with your own personal CUPE Educational plan!

10. Melanie

I’m curious what happens if WestJet refuses to deduct the dues right away. Will there be retro dues or  will we be responsible for sending in biweekly cheques?

And is there a current loan or debt that we have to CUPE to date that we will need to pay back?

Our response:
There is no current loan amount from CUPE National. That is why you Executive feels it is critical to get our dues going right away. The Executive is steadfast in its view that asking our membership to pay lump sums in addition to dues at a later date, is both unsustainable for most CCMs, and not a financially sound way to run our Local.

Other questions we’re hearing from members:

Q: Why are our dues being proposed higher than other CUPE airline locals?

A: Other airline Locals with somewhat lower dues have long been unionized with well-established collective agreements, infrastructure, and money in the bank. They are up and running, and seamlessly providing services to their members. Starting a union local from scratch takes funding, and the bulk of start-up costs (outside of initial training and education for elected representatives) must come from the membership via dues. The comparatively higher dues rate being proposed is simply to allow your Executive to properly setup the local offices, acquire equipment, and begin a savings fund that can be accessed when there is a significant event that requires additional funding.

We joined CUPE to have the resources we need to be on equal footing with WestJet. If we don’t have a steady revenue source, we will continue to be out gunned by the company.

 

Q: Why are dues also calculated on shift pick-ups?

A: Dues are calculated on pick-ups for one simple reason: pick-ups at straight time are a product of another CCM dropping the trip. The CCM who was originally awarded the pairing would need to pay dues on all of their original hours. Once the trip is dropped to another CCM, those dues can’t simply disappear, or else the local dues coming in will fluctuate wildly from month to month, as a function of how many trips CCMs choose to drop. There would be zero ability for the Local to budget and consistently forecast dues income. This is an unsustainable way to fund any union Local.

 

Q: When would dues commence and would there be any retroactive dues payable?

A: If passed, Local 4070 would immediately request that the employer initiate deductions of dues on behalf of the Local. The employer is not legally required to collect dues on behalf of the Union until a Collective Agreement has been ratified, but they often agree to this as an expression of good faith.

Once this language is approved into the bylaws, we are bound as a Local to adhere to what is stated, and within our control. Meaning that should this amendment pass, we would be obligated to endeavor to collect dues so as not to be in violation of our bylaws.

Should the Employer agree to collect dues immediately, there will be no retroactive dues owing at that time.

 

Q: Why is the Vice-President being added to the Bargaining Committee?

A: This was an oversight in the first set of bylaws. Having the President and Vice-President on the Bargaining Committee allows for a continuance of work should either the President or Vice-President be unavailable for any particular day of bargaining or should either no longer hold their office for any reason. Bargaining must go on and cannot rely on one person who holds the only knowledge necessary to allow the process to move forward for our members.

 

Q: I understand the need for 1.95% to start the Local, but can this be revisited once we are up and  running?

A: Absolutely. We are voting in the dues at 1.95% starting once we approve the rate, and once the company agrees to collect the dues on our behalf. As your Executive, we too will pay dues. We are completely open to lowering the dues when the time is right, and when our membership has the service levels they need from our Local. We are here to listen to our members and make the right decisions. Lowering the dues can certainly be revisited at a later date.  Members (and only members) decide the dues rate and it can be changed with a vote.

 

Q: Do I pay dues if I am on short or long-term disability?

A: This is covered in section 11 of the bylaws. In short, you will not pay dues while on STD or LTD, as you are not receiving wages from the Employer. Your income is being paid as an insurance policy claim. The Local may charge the $5 readmittance fee to the Local.

 

Q: What earnings are my dues calculated on?

A: Dues are calculated based on all ‘regular’ earnings. This means: all straight time block hours that you work only. Unlike our pilots who have agreed to pay dues on all earnings such as: overtime, profit share, OPA, etc., our members will not pay dues on any such additional earnings. It’s only flying at straight time on your schedule at time of pay.

 

Q: How did you come up with the proposed dues amount?

A: The level of 1.1% higher than the CUPE National per capita of 0.85% (for a total of 1.95%) was chosen based on the estimated financial projections calculated by the Secretary-Treasurer. It’s an estimate based on consultation with CUPE representatives as to the average cost of various expenses.