The Kerrisdale Community Centre Society is accusing the park board of attempting to force the society to pay for union positions it did not create or want.
Society vice-president Robert Lockhart said a joint operating agreement between the society and the board has been in place for more than 20 years, but he believes it's being ignored by the board and parks staff. Lockhart said the park board is insisting the Kerrisdale society pay for three regular, part-time union positions the board created. He added those positions were previously auxiliary positions paid for by the association. "But then those jobs were converted from association jobs to park board jobs and they want us to pay for them," said Lockhart. "The reason they gave us is that it's part of the collective agreement and the city has to comply, but we don't have an agreement with the union."
The park board and society are in a stand-off, with the society refusing to pay for the positions. Lockhart said in return, the board is refusing to fill the community centre's recreation supervisor position, which has been vacant for months. Stew Jordan, a former park board employee and Kerrisdale recreation supervisor, says prior to the park board approving those positions, staff gave the commissioners misleading information regarding the collective agreement.
But he says he is most excited Jordan has been hired by three community centre associations to act as a consultant in negotiations regarding the agreement. Jordan said in 2007 the park board agreed to form a joint committee with CUPE that would look at converting auxiliary employee positions to "regular, part time." Jordan said the associations were not invited to join. "So there is still no agreement between the societies and the union," he said.
Jordan added parks staff told the commissioners, elected last November, they had no choice but to approve these positions because it was part of the collective agreement between the city and union. Jordan argued that position is wrong and he hopes the commissioners will rethink their decision. Jordan supplied the Courier with a copy of a document regarding park board and community centre staffing, which is signed by parks staff and the union, but not by any community centre association member. "Why should Kerrisdale pay for something it never asked for," said Jordan. "That would be like me ordering you a subscription to a newspaper you didn't want and then insisting you pay for it."
According to park board director of recreation Thomas Soulliere, permanent and casual staff at community centres are funded from various sources, including funds generated through programming, which are held by the associations.
"While the nature of casual positions is typically temporary, the city and CUPE agreed, during the collective bargaining discussions in 2007, to a conversion process which would provide the benefits associated with permanent status to staff who have worked a consistent schedule over an extended period of time," Soulliere wrote in a email to the Courier.
He added the city's Auxiliary Review Committee makes recommendations regarding which positions should be converted from casual to permanent each year. In 2011, three positions at Kerrisdale were recommended for conversion to regular part-time status and approved by the park board at a public meeting last December. Soulliere noted the meeting was attended by members of the Kerrisdale society who objected to the conversion.
He wrote: "the park board has continued to work with the society to resolve the issue since January when the positions became permanent and the society ceased paying invoices from the city for the associated expenses."