Dear Sisters & Brothers,
This week, I would like to report on the state of the Local, provide some context to these past few week’s events, and address some topics that you, Local 213 members, have raised.
The union offices have been closed to members and the public since March 16 and we have reduced the staff that physically reports to the building to our most critical needs. That doesn’t mean that the Local’s work isn’t getting done. While our Dispatcher is still in the office daily, all our union reps are working remotely, and some admin staff have been set up to work from home.
We continue monitoring all the government assistance program announcements that may assist the organization, whether as tax relief, payroll and rent assistance, or any other program that Local 213 may qualify for, in order to reduce the financial impact on our organization going forward. Membership dues are remitted by your Employers in the month following the hours worked, and as such we don’t yet know the impact of the reduced hours and layoffs. However, we expect to see significant reductions in our expenses due to fewer events, conferences, legal and labour relations meetings, as well as necessary adjustments to the way we now do business. We are managing.
This Local and its representatives have been working with our shop stewards, member committees and employers over the last weeks to develop new COVID-19 protocols and other processes to adapt workplaces and procedures. Depending on the bargaining unit and collective agreement, these have come in the form of new schedules, work classification group isolations, alternating shifts and a myriad of other changes to adjust for the protection of workers from infection while maintaining workforce levels required.
Although these changes in some cases are drastic – and would never be considered under normal circumstances – we understand that the evolution of how we work during this crisis is necessary, while keeping our members on essential work lists as safe as possible. Although we see the need to be flexible and adaptable to some factors, we have continued to advocate for your rights throughout these adjustments. Rest assured we consider these adjustments temporary, only in order to combat the spread of COVID-19.
We have heard from a few members the request to waive monthly non-working membership dues. I want to clarify that the reality is that the majority of your non-working dues go to the International Office (IO) in Washington D.C. Your Local receives just $1.50 of those monthly membership dues. While we do not have the authority to provide abeyance, we want you to know that are listening to you and raising your concerns with the First District (Canada) and the International Office.
We don’t yet know how the IO intends to deal with an escalating situation in which members are unable to pay their membership dues. At this time, I can only advise members who have been laid off or taken medical leave to utilize the government services available through Employment Insurance (EI) or the Canada Emergency Care Benefit (CERB) and to maintain your membership dues. Keeping your membership in good standing will prevent delays in returning to work once we get through this. And we will get through this.
Lastly, in keeping with public health guidelines we have decided to postpone or cancel some upcoming events. Although we will continue conducting Executive Board meetings, we will not be holding unit meetings in April and May meetings are tentative at this time. We are actively looking into solutions and alternate methods to hold meetings that will adhere to physical distancing restrictions. One option is video conference or online meetings; however, this option is not currently not condoned by the IO. Whatever the format, as soon as we can have monthly meetings again, we will inform you of the details immediately.
Thank you once again for your dedication to your union, your communities and each other.