Kamloops bylaw overhaul violated union agreement but dispute isn't over | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops bylaw overhaul violated union agreement but dispute isn't over


A long-awaited labour decision between the City of Kamloops and its employee union says the collective agreement was violated when its bylaw department was overhauled nearly three years ago.

An arbitrator found the City should have negotiated the change. Instead, bylaw officers were given four options as management created Community Service Officers in 2020, dodging any say from the union, according to the decision.

The labour decision comes after the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 900 announced it would challenge the bylaw restructuring nearly in 2020. Hearings began in August 2021 and continued for nine dates until final written submissions given on Nov. 15, 2022.

The City issued a news release yesterday, Aug. 14, in response to the decision. It wasn't publicly available yet, but chief administrative officer David Trawin said it wasn't a clear win for either party.

Arbitrator Andy Sims ordered both parties to negotiate again, but reserved his right to issue orders if they can't come to an agreement.

When the City rebranded its bylaw officers to Community Service Officers, it not only changed the title but effectively created a new job. Bylaw officers were not grandfathered into the new role, but instead offered severance for those who worked at least 10 years with the City or new jobs, which could be either equal or lower pay, according to the decision.

The new job required trainees to pass a fitness test and complete a law enforcement course. The 32 employees at the time, which included both jail guards at the RCMP detachment and bylaw officers, were told their jobs were put "in motion" in an August 2020 letter.

Bylaw officers ranged in age from 25 to 71. The majority were older than 40 and "a few" had some form of disability, but the City didn't believe that was relevant to the decision.

Management anticipated changes in the BC Police Act, which would allow bylaw officers to become Peace Officers. They did so both in an effort to grant bylaw officers more enforcement authority and to cut costs by reducing the amount of employees in the department, according to the decision.

Seventeen of the former bylaw officers were accepted to trainee positions, with seven becoming community service officers and one remaining as a trainee, according to the decision.

Managers met with the union in July, several weeks before the change was meant to be implemented, including Protective Services director Byron McCorkell, then-bylaw manager Tammy Blundell and Human Resources director Colleen Quigley. They told the union there was only so much money in the budget to accommodate the changes, so they anticipated a reduction in workforce.

Quigley made comments that were "seen as dismissive of, or perhaps showed lack of awareness of," employee rights. She suggested current employees would have rights to the new job. They would have to reapply and while seniority plays a role, the City had "no obligation" to the current staff.

While Sims found the City violated the union agreement, he also found the union was incorrect in its belief that it could resist changes to the bylaw officer role entirely.

Instead of ordering an award to the union or the City, Sims sent both back to the negotiating table to settle their differences, suggesting they come to terms over scheduling and fitness requirements. He may make an order in the future if they cannot come to an agreement.

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