Burnaby First questions delay in making CUPE contract public

Rick McGowan -
Rick McGowan
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The Burnaby First Coalition is taking credit for getting city hall's contract with its civic workers posted online in recent weeks, 18 months after it was ratified.

But member Rick McGowan is turning down an opportunity to speak to council about his concerns over the delay.

For months, McGowan has been trying to get a copy of Burnaby's collective agreement with its unionized civic workers.

While the deal was ratified by the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 23 in December 2012, it wasn't posted on the union's website until earlier this month.

McGowan even filed a freedom of information request in February to get a copy, but was turned down with the explanation that it would be available "once the review process is complete," according to a Burnaby First press release.

McGowan is a member of Burnaby First, a new municipal political party formed by members with diverse political backgrounds. It's seeking to unseat the reigning Burnaby Citizens Association, which is in the second term of a monopoly on all civic seats.

Burnaby First sent out a press release June 18 outlining its concerns and its request to appear as a delegation at the June 23 council meeting to discuss them.

When contacted by the NewsLeader shortly afterwards, McGowan said the contract, with signatures dated June 4, was posted on CUPE's website days earlier.

"The timing seems to be, I think we pressed them to release it now."

• View City of Burnaby civic worker contracts here

Such contracts should be made public sooner, said McGowan, a teacher, whose own union contract is public. "I'd want to be able to compare my contract with other contracts."

As McGowan planned to speak about the CUPE contract, staff from the city clerk's department said he would have to speak at the in-camera, closed-door meeting of council held prior to the regular open meeting.

That's because labour relations issues, like those dealing with legal, personnel, land sales and other sensitive issues, must be held in-camera.

On Thursday, McGowan said in a Burnaby First press release he decided he  would not meet with council at the closed-door meeting "to protest the systemic lack of transparency."

Pat Tennant, Burnaby's human resources director, said it's not unusual for the review process to take so long.

The recently completed contract for CUPE 23 actually consists of four documents for each of the inside, outside, foremen and library divisions of workers. The review process involved going back and forth between city hall and the union numerous times to ensure all the changes agreed to in the contract settlement are incorporated and validated in the new contract, Tennant said.

With this contract extra time was also put into streamlining the entire process so future contracts can be completed much more quickly, she noted.

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