Union History

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On May 23, 1974, the Workmen’s Compensation Board Employees’ Union was certified with 730 members. Up until then, the employees at the WCB had been represented through an association. This Employee Association was formed in 1970 when there was a volatile BC labour climate, but workers at the WCB remained relatively comfortable with good wages and working conditions. The Association formed a list of objectives: 

  • Extended medical
  • Annual vacation scheduling (fairness and consistency in administering)
  • A bi-weekly pay period
  • Enlarged and improved cafeteria
  • Transfer of superannuation
  • Sick leave
  • Substitution pay
  • Dental plan

By 1972, the Association was moving to unionize. A change in government had resulted in public sector employees being given bargaining rights. The Association recognized that as a union they would be in a stronger position to bargain better rights for staff.

By December 1972, over 50 percent of the potential members had signed up to unionize and an application was made to the B.C. Labour Relations Board. 

This application was rejected in February 1973 stating the WCB was not an “Employer” as defined by the Labour Relations Act, but an agent of the Crown. 

Then, in October 1973, a new Labour Code and Bill 75 were passed, which gave bargaining rights to government employees and to WCB employees. That Act also established there could only be three bargaining units - nurses, licensed professionals, and public service. This meant that the only way WCB employees could unionize was to become part of the BCGEU (BC Government and Services Employees’ Union). 

The Association launched an action at the about Relations Board arguing the definition of “public servants” and by default only able to unionize if we were members of BCGEU. However the Association wanted to be an independent union.

It took a year of appeals and a campaign for public support before the Labour Relations Board made a decision in April 1974 that the WCB was sufficiently autonomous from government to be granted status as an “employer”. 

The remaining hurdle to overcome was the right to certify as an independent union. The BCGEU and the Health Sciences Association opposed the formation of an independent union. However, by April 28, 1974, the BCGEU withdrew their objection and, instead, offered to help create the WCBEU. On May 23, 1974 the certification hearing was held and the rest is history. The WCBEU was certified! 

A number of hot issues came forward in the following years that culminated in our first  and only strike in 1989. 

  • In 1975, the WCB decided to open area offices. To staff these new offices, management picked names from a hat to decide who went where. The union went public over what they coined the “meat draw” and other issues, including poor working conditions, unfair treatment, and a refusal to bargain a second collective agreement. 
  • In 1978, the Board made a number of union jobs redundant and then posted them as excluded positions. 
  • In 1980, there was a building dissatisfaction around arbitrary treatment in performance reviews, which at that time determined whether members got a pay increase - and these reviews were not grievable. 
  • In 1983, there was major labour unrest in the province due to regressive legislation brought in by the Social Credit government. The union joined Operation Solidarity.
  • In 1984, sick leave payout and a fortnight system were lost in bargaining. One hundred and thirteen members were declared redundant. The Board announced closures of Williams Lake, Fort St John, Penticton, Prince Rupert, and Chilliwack offices. 
  • 1986, we lost the cost of living allowance clause. 
  • In 1988, the union did a survey that confirmed over half of the membership were working unpaid overtime to keep up with work volumes. 

In 1989, a pretty good deal was on the table but nothing was stopping the members from going out - even though a strike fund wasn't in place so they could receive pay. 

Too much had happened - the tapping of individuals on the back and telling them they were moving, work volumes, no respect from management, loss of rights at bargaining - all of this led to the members just wanting to make a statement to the employer. 

The strike lasted three weeks. Following that strike, the members approved a dues increase of 0.03 percent to build a strike fund. We also changed our name to the Compensation Employees’ Union.

Since the strike of 1989, the union has completed many successful rounds of bargaining to improve wages, benefits, time off, and working conditions. 

In 2004 the CEU affiliated with the BCGEU, to establish its place in the larger labour movement. This gives us a strategic advantage to reach organized labour on issues that are important to our membership. 

We support and value a publicly-managed, administered, and delivered workers’ compensation system; one that respects both worker and employer rights and upholds the principles of the historic compromise.