City of Chestermere accused of unionbusting

The Canadian Union of Provincial Employees recently won the right to bargain on behalf of municipal workers in Chestermere, but the city has been dragging their feet on a new contract.

Earlier this week, the Alberta Labour Relations Board published their latest new applications report.

In it was an application from Local 37 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which alleges that the employer they’ve been trying to negotiate a new contract with has been “interfer{ing] with the Union’s attempt to organize employees”.

The application doesn’t provide any more details, other than that the employer was the City of Chestermere, so I reached out to CUPE for more information, and I heard back from Lou Arab, one of their communications representatives.

Support independent journalism

According to him, this is the first contract for this bargaining unit, which represents most of the municipal workers in Chestermere.

ALRB certified them as a bargaining unit back in January 2022, and they have been attempting to get a first contract with the City of Chestermere as of 17 June 2022, when they served notice to bargain.

They never heard from the City of Chestermere, so Arab said they sent a follow-up request to bargain last December. When that didn’t work, they turned to the ALRB, who organized a conference for the two parties.

Arab had forwarded me a copy of the complete application that CUPE had filed to the ALRB.

Basically, CUPE’s complaints comes down to two issues. First, they claim that the City of Chestermere is trying to decertify the union. Second, they claim that the City of Chestermere is bargaining in bad faith, with their negotiations being nothing more than surface bargaining, which is when you look as though you’re bargaining (showing up to the bargaining dates, for example), but you don’t put forward any proposals as part of the process.

Regarding the decertification process, the union claims that a member of the city’s bargaining team—Angela Deloughery, the administrative assistant to the city director—began circulating a petition among union members this past June, along with Janet Courtier, the executive administrator to city council.

This petition tried to gather support for a revote on CUPE’s representation of the municipal workers.

The following month, according to CUPE’s application to the ALRB, Deloughery accessed “personal employee information and sent a mass email to the personal email addresses of the bargaining unit members”, inviting those workers “to a meeting to discuss the union’s representation and informed the employees that they would be given an opportunity to sign a decertification petition”.

Here is a copy of that email.

According to one city worker, when they confronted Deloughery about how she obtained the personal email addresses, she claimed that they came from an email that the union had sent out to email address.

CUPE, in their application to the ALRB, claimed that they sent a letter to the City of Chestermere this past August, regarding the complaints they had been receiving “from the membership of coercion and intimidation”. In that letter, the union “recommended that the city take immediate action to protect the rights of employees”.

The application to the ALRB further states that a month later, the union had received information that representatives from the City of Chestermere that they were telling recently hired workers “that the Union would not be around for long”.

About 3 weeks later, Deloughery sent out another email to municipal workers inviting them to a second meeting “regarding the union-related issues have not been addressed” and that a representative from the City of Chestermere’s human resources department would be there.

CUPE’s application to the ALRB claimed that the human resources representative was Nicole Myrie, the manager of human resources corporate services. She also happens to apparently be on the City of Chestermere’s bargaining committee.

It seems to me that if the City of Chestermere’s bargaining team was focused on actual bargaining instead of trying to get rid of the union, these workers might actually have a contract.

Deloughery is also a direct subordinate of Kim Wallace, one of the the three chief administrative officers at the City of Chestermere. Wallace had been overseeing bargaining, but was later replaced by Cameron Wong, one of the other two CAOs, after she faced assault charges following an alleged physical altercation, in which she was accused of standing “over top of [an employee], started screaming and aggressively poked her twice in the right shoulder” then a few minutes later “swatting her shoulder”.

Regarding the surface bargaining, the union claims that they met with the city’s bargaining team in June 2023, a year after filing a notice to bargain.

In that meeting, Wong apparently told the union’s bargaining team that he “would attempt to get monetary direction from the city council during the July 11, 2023, meeting of the city council.”

Apparently, that request never made it to the agenda of the city council meeting. Despite that, the union presented the city’s bargaining team with a wage grid proposal at the 20 July 2023 bargaining meeting.

However, they noted to the city’s team that their proposal was based on guesswork, as the City of Chestermere hadn’t made any existing wage grids public. Once again, the union was told that monetary direction would be raised at city council meeting, yet by the 20 September 2023 bargaining meeting, there was still no direction from city council.

The union had also requested in the 20 July 2023 meeting a list of all the workers that had been hired or terminated by the City. By the date of their application to the ALRB, they had still heard nothing from the City of Chestermere regarding this request.

As well, in their application to the ALRB, the union claims that the City of Chestermere has refused to present proposals during bargaining.

During the entire course of bargaining, except for a response to a union letter proposing the parties agree to a grievance and arbitration process while the collective agreement was being negotiated, the only written proposal, or response to a union proposal, the union has received is the city’s ingoing proposal.

Support independent journalism

By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

Comment on this story

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.