Vancouver’s biggest civic workers union will decide Feb. 12 whether to shut down its job steward’s council indefinitely.
Canadian Union of Public Employees’ Local 1004 executive board voted Jan. 16 to suspend the committee, chaired by chief steward Alex Bruse, the local’s top liaison between the executive and rank-and-file members.
Bruse unsuccessfully challenged president Mike Jackson’s authority last fall when Jackson was temporarily assigned to CUPE’s B.C. regional office as a servicing representative. Andy Woodford was installed as Local 1004’s acting president.
Bruse contended CUPE’s constitution and local bylaws were breached because members did not approve the absence of Jackson. Bruse also alleged Jackson received unexplained payments and failed to disclose the union’s financial statements to members in an Oct. 15, 2012 email to CUPE B.C. regional representative Meena Brisard, which was copied to national president Paul Moist and secretary/treasurer Charles Fleury.
Bruse wrote that Jackson was absent “without a reason deemed good or sufficient by the 1004 membership” from monthly membership meetings in August, September and October and seven executive meetings from Aug. 14-Oct. 9, 2012.
“The 1004 executive board has not made its position regarding Brother Jackson’s absence clear to membership,” said Bruse’s email, which was obtained by the Courier. “However, the 1004 membership has made its position regard (sic) Brother Jackson’s absence unmistakably clear: it has voted to proclaim his leave unacceptable since Aug. 14th, and the executive board is, by the terms of our bylaws, subject to our decision.”
Bruse’s letter said Woodford “has done an excellent job in stepping in and I believe he would be elected by acclamation to the 1004 presidency.”
Bruse also claimed the executive “held back recent (financial) statements due to payments” made to Jackson.
“I am not alleging any wrongdoing, but rather bringing to your attention some of the other ways in which Brother Jackson’s unapproved absence is causing friction, instability and uncertainty in the local,” Bruse wrote.
A letter by Jackson tabled at the Aug. 14, 2012 meeting said he was “saddened by the actions one continues to take towards me, however I stand by what I have achieved for this local.”
“I will continue to lead this local when my assignment ends and until the term of my office is completed,” Jackson wrote.
Brisard dismissed Bruse’s complaint in a Nov. 1, 2012 letter to Moist, which said membership approval was not required for Jackson’s absence.
“Furthermore, Brother Jackson is on an approved leave of absence from the City of Vancouver. He has exercised his rights pursuant to the collective agreement,” Brisard wrote.
“I believe the correct checks and balances regarding finances are in place at the local. After considering the facts surrounding the unexplained payments to Brother Jackson, it is my considered opinion that there was no wrongdoing on the part of Brother Jackson or the local.”
Jackson and Bruse did not respond to interview requests from the Courier.
“You can quote me as saying we do not discuss internal union politics with the media,” Woodford told the Courier.
Jackson, who was on Mayor Gregor Robertson’s personal guest list for the 2011 city council swearing-in, presided over local 1004’s successful ratification of a four-year contract in January. The deal, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012, gives the 1,600 garbage, recycling, street repair and parks and facilities maintenance workers a 6.75% pay hike through Dec. 31, 2015.
The CUPE local 1004 balance sheet through June 30, 2012 showed assets of $1,094,805.01 and liabilities of $523,366.44.
For a look at union documents related to this story, go here.