In 1941 a group of Municipal employees got together and formed an Association that is known today as the West Vancouver Municipal Employees’ Association (the Association) and was affiliated with the Trades and Labour Congress and Joint Council of Public Employees B.C. Division Federal Local No. 13.
It was then, in 1941, that the following preamble was first written for the Constitution and Bylaws: “We, the Municipal Employees of West Vancouver, believing it to be a natural right of those who toil, to enjoy to the fullest extent the wealth created by our labour and appreciating the very great benefits to be derived through uniting for mutual protection”.
Between 1941 and 1950 information is very sketchy; we know that during that period of time there was an agreement covering Board of Works, Waterworks and Parks Departments only, it was dated October 1946 and showed the Labourer’s rate at 80 cents per hour, conditions allowed all employees ten days sick leave at half pay in any calendar year and two weeks’ vacation. The agreement also showed that membership was a condition of employment, and there was no payroll deduction for dues, so collecting dues would be a problem.
In 1950 the Association applied to the B.C. Labour Relations Board for a certificate of Bargaining Authority making the Association the sole bargaining agency for all employees of the Municipality except those excluded under the Labour Relations Act and those certified under other bargaining units. At this point there were 51 clerical and outside workers, 20 in the Hall and 31 Board of Works, Waterworks and Parks. The first Collective Agreement under the B.C. certification was signed on January 1, 1951 — a Labourer earned $1.20 per hour and the Clerk Stenographer earned $140.00 per month.
During the years since 1950 the certificate of Bargaining Authority covering all Municipal employees except those excluded employees has been amended four times to accommodate the changing times, the additions of specialized employees and title change. In 1953 the Association received certificate of Bargaining Authority for the Association to be the sole bargaining agent covering the non-teaching staff at the West Vancouver School Board and in a subsequent year the Bowen Island School was added to the certificate. In July 1965 certification was received by the Association to cover the clerical employees in the West Vancouver Police station; in 1974 certification for clerks in the Library and subsequently the Librarians.
In 1952, the Association became a local of the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) a national union that in later years became Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). When NUPE became CUPE the Association withdrew and became independent and has remained that way ever since.
Prior to 1965 the West Vancouver Police Commission, as it was known in those days, and their employees, were considered Municipal employees and came under the Municipal Collective Agreement. However, in 1965 the Police Commission became the West Vancouver Police Board and the Labour Relations Board ruled the Police Board was the employer not the Municipality, so the Association applied to the LRB and received a certificate of Bargaining Authority for clerical staff in the police station. In 1974 the LRB ruled that the West Vancouver Memorial Library Board was the employer of the Library employees not the Municipality, and in that year the Association applied to the LRB and received certification for clerical staff in the Library and a few years later the certificate was amended to include Librarians. Prior to 1950 West Vancouver Police constables were members of the Association.
In 1966 the Association joined the Children’s Jubilee Summer Camp, a camp in the North Arm (of Burrard Inlet) for needy children. The camp was operated and maintained by a group of unions contributing free time and material to its operation. As a member, the Association was expected to sponsor one or two under privileged children to a two-week’s stay at camp. During this era the Municipality was responsible for the administration of welfare in West Vancouver, so with the Welfare Department in the Hall it was not difficult to find two children to sponsor. This annual sponsorship continued until the government took over the welfare, the Department moved out and the Association lost its members.
In 1972, following Mr. Elmer Barnes’ retirement as Municipal Manager, the Association decided to set aside monies for a scholarship fund to be known as the Elmer Barnes Scholarship. The scholarship would offer financial assistance to the sons and daughters of members who are continuing their education in a post-secondary educational vocation. The scholarship has been very popular with many brilliant students applying. In some cases it has been necessary to award two scholarships. The results are based on marks in academic subjects and participation in extra curricular activities. In 2011 a decision was made to change the name of the scholarship to the WVMEA Academic Scholarship.
In early 1974 a representative of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 963 (IUOE) was conducting meetings with the School Board’s custodians and maintenance staff enticing them to fill out IUOE membership cards and join the IUOE. In July 1974 the IUOE applied to the Labour Relations Board (LRB) to be certified for employees engaged in custodial
and maintenance duties. This was classified as a raid. Immediately the Association protested to the LRB with written reasons why the IUOE should not be successful. The School Board was opposed to the proposal and expressed their disapproval to the LRB. Following considerable correspondence between the Association, IUOE, LRB and School Board the LRB rejected the
IUOE’s application because the LRB determined that the unit applied for was not appropriate in circumstances of this case.
In September 1975 the IUOE made their second attempt to raid the Custodians and Maintenance staff with an application to the LRB for certification. Following the customary exchange of briefs the LRB again rejected the application on the same basis as in 1974 with the added comment that less than a majority of the employees in the unit were members of the applicant trade union as required by the Act. Under the Act the IUOE must have a majority (51%) of WVMEA School Board members signed up as members of the IUOE in order to be successful.
Prior to 1977 the Municipality had the Assessment Department and the employees were responsible for assessing property values. In 1976 the GVRD formed the BC Assessment Authority and the Municipal Assessment Department ceased to exist and the Association lost all those members.
In 1977 the West Vancouver Municipality became a full member of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) which included the GVRD Labour Relations Department. The Labour Relations Department was the branch of the GVRD that did the negotiating for all members collectively relieving the cities and municipalities the responsibility of negotiating individually and creating leap frog situations in contract matters. The GVRD (known now as Metro Vancouver) Labour Relations Department now negotiates with the unions as a group wherever possible, and all receive the same wage/salary increase and the same benefits that have a dollar value. The Association objected to being part of the group (being independent) and through the cooperation of West Vancouver Council permission was granted to negotiate with the Municipal Manager but under the GVRD umbrella. The GVRD would have the final say by approving or rejecting any proposed settlement reached between municipality and WVMEA. Monetary settlements for Municipality, Library and Police are based on settlements between GVRD and City of Vancouver et al. In 1980/81 there was an exception to the independent bargaining by WVMEA. The West Vancouver School Board did not join the GVRD consequently negotiations are made with Board’s approval. However, in the late 1990’s the government established the British Colombia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) which now is the approval authority for all School contracts. Over the last several contracts, a two-stepped process has been put in place, with a provincial committee set up to negotiate “common” items of interest, and then a local bargaining committee meets to negotiate the items of local interest.
In early 1980 the Municipality invited the Association to participate in discussions with Municipality and Interlock regarding Interlock’s proposed employment assistance program, a program to assist employees who have problems that affect their performances at work. These problems could range from financial, family, alcohol and drugs seeking help would be voluntary and confidential except in cases where an employee is in jeopardy of losing his/her job in this case management will suggest Interlock as an alternative to firing. In August 1980 the Association members approved the Municipality’s proposal to subscribe to Interlock and in 1980 Municipal Council approved a two-year contract that has been regularly renewed ever since and includes Fire, Police and Library. The School Board subscribed to a similar type of employment assistance program through Wilson-Bandwell. Both Interlock and Wilson-Bandwell have been very successful with employees needing help and have maintained their policy of confidentiality. Note: Human Solutionsnow provides support to School Board members through their Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP).
In 1980 the Association agreed to become a member of the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) a committee made up of representatives from VMREU, CUPE locals and now the Association. The Committee was formed so the participating members could negotiate with GVRD Labour Relations Department as a group rather than individually. The Association withdrew from the committee following the 1981 strike. The Association preferred to negotiate with the Municipality directly.
In 1981 the Association had its first and only strike since its incorporation in 1941. There had never been a work stoppage or job action by the Association in West Vancouver.
Throughout the life of the Association, other jurisdictions such as the Vancouver City Hall Employees Association, later to become the Vancouver Municipal and Regional Employees Union (VMREU) then CUPE 15, and other CUPE locals would, from time to time, take job action against their employers if wage and benefit negotiations were not going well. During these periods, the Association did not see fit to exercise their democratic rights and strike too, as the Association was negotiating with the Municipality directly. However, in 1981, as members of the CNC and a very contentious issue at stake, the Association was obligated to take a strike vote and join all the others on the picket line. In early 1981, the Association applied to the Labour Relations Board to conduct a government supervised strike vote, which in due course was conducted, and a slim majority voted in favour of strike. In February 1981, a 72-hour strike notice was served on the Municipality and soon after that rotation strike action was taken and after a reasonable length of time all, but essential service employees were called out and a general strike was in force and the major disruption was garbage collection. Late in April 1981 a settlement was reached and Association members went back to work on May 1st, 1981.
The Association continues to represent employees in the School Board, Municipality (Inside/Outside), Library and Police (Civilians.) Wage “guidelines” and contracting out, as well as concessions sought in bargaining by the employer groups have become the Association’s priorities.
Roy Hunter was a WVMEA Library member from 1975 until his death in 2004. His significant contribution to this Association led to the creation in 2006 of the Roy Hunter Memorial Scholarship for the Visual Arts— dedicated to celebrating excellence in the Visual Arts field. A further scholarship, the WVMEA Trades Scholarship, was also created at the same time.
In the Fall of 2012 the West Vancouver Police Dispatchers’ group was moved to E-Comm in Vancouver, and became members of the CUPE Local operating out of that site.
As of December 2018, the WVMEA’s membership consisted approximately 1046 members. The WVMEA remains an “independent” organization, although larger unions wishing to bring us into their organizations constantly approach us. In 1995 CUPE went so far as to actively pursue the potential of raiding the Municipal Inside/Outside component, but were unsuccessful in generating enough interest. As we move forward, the benefits of independence versus being part of a larger organization will no doubt continue to be questioned.