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Metro Vancouver Labour Relations Bureau releases Jim Dorsey's report on its future mandate

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Local Government

The Metro Vancouver Labour Relations Bureau released a report today on its future mandate in light of pending key defections among its member municipalities.

Metro Vancouver

Metro Vancouver encompasses 21 municipalities, one electoral district and one treaty first nation.The resident population of Metro Vancouver is 2.3 million.

Metro Vancouver (still officially called the Greater Vancouver Regional District) was given a "labour negotiations and related ancillary services" function for its members back in 1973.

Metro Vancouver Labour Relations Bureau

The Metro Vancouver committee that exercises "the executive and administrative aspects" of the function is called the Metro Vancouver Labour Relations Bureau.

Municipalities within Metro Vancouver can choose whether they want to be participating members in the Bureau. Surrey, Richmond and Port Coquitlam are currently not participating members. And in the past two years, Burnaby, Vancouver, Delta and West Vancouver have given notice of withdrawal.

A blog post today by Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs ("Metro Labour Relations Bureau releases arbitrator's report on its future") provides more insight on the bureau. He writes: 

The bureau, which never had Surrey as a full participant, has been shaken by the withdrawal of one municipality after another. Richmond and Coquitlam are out, Burnaby, Vancouver and Delta have given notice they
wish to leave.

Metro Vancouver Labour Relations Department

The Metro Vancouver Labour Relations Department operates under the direction of Bureau. Its staff currently negotiate more than 60 collective agreements covering approximately 15,000 employees on behalf of 35 employers within the region.

The 35 employers consist of the 15 member municipalities of the Bureau and another 20 organizations that are related to these member municipalities - such as commissions, boards and associations.

The Department also provides the following ancilliary services:

  • evaluates and reclassifies jobs,
  • assists in managing human rights issues,
  • provides WCB-related expertise, and
  • researches key collective bargaining information like pay and benefit levels in the marketplace.

The Report

The report that was released today ("Sustainable or Spent Force: Review of Metro Vancouver Labour Relations Function" (March 3, 2011) was written by well-known labour arbitrator James (Jim) Dorsey, Q.C..

Mr. Dorsey explains the genesis of the report (in the report) as follows:

In August 2010, the employers' organization commissioned this "independent Labour Relations Specialist" review to make pragmatic recommendations that will enable the employers' organization to meet the future needs of the region and "operate in a manner that is in the best interests of the taxpayers in the Region." The review scope includes governance, committee and department roles and funding. This public report is to include a "comprehensive evaluation of the issues" and recommendations for "potential changes" to meet the region's future needs.

The review process consisted of study of voluminous material; interviews with municipal management, elected officials, current and former employees of the organization and trade union representatives; and independent research.

Before setting out his reccomendations, Dorsey's concludes:

Realistically, the foundation for sustaining the organization has to be recognition and acceptance of the original and persistent compromise - voluntary membership in an exclusive bargaining agency. Because few member municipalities are willing to join an employers' organization accredited under the Labour Relations Code that is not an option.

The current reality is there is no identifiable organizational change that will persuade either Surrey or Richmond to become a participating member. Neither strengthening nor weakening the Bureau and Department's roles will entice them. Similarly, there is no identifiable change that will persuade Burnaby or Vancouver to revoke their withdrawal notices. For now, the four largest municipalities are determined to chart their own course. Their choice not to participate must be accepted and respected.

Therefore, focus of the recommendations is to sustain what is of value for all regional district members; to restructure allocating primary cost to municipalities that choose to participate and make the Bureau effective for them; and to establish a platform on which the employers' organization can move from a defensive alliance to a vehicle for a strategic alliance that might one day transform into an employers' organization for all regional district municipalities.

A story in today's Vancouver Sun can be found here: "Metro Vancouver's labour relations bureau broken: report" (May 12, 2011).