Big win on health benefits for CWA Canada members in Kingston, North Bay

2018.10.19

An arbitrator has upheld a ‘me too’ provision negotiated by CWA Canada that will see members who work at Postmedia newspapers in Kingston and North Bay get the same health benefits as their colleagues at the Windsor Star.

“It’s a great win,” said national staff representative David Wilson, who led negotiations at the three Locals. “They’re going to get the Windsor plan as of Dec. 1.”

The Windsor Typographical Union (Local 30553) successfully fought off demands for major concessions, reaching an agreement at strike deadline in May that saw them retain a benefits plan that was far superior to the Common Plan that Postmedia was attempting to impose company-wide.

Wilson had, in 2017, led bargaining at the Kingston Whig Standard and at The Nugget in North Bay, both of which settled collective agreements that included the Common Plan but contained a ’me too’ clause that said they would get a “different” plan if a better one was negotiated by another CWA Canada Local.

The company argued at a one-day hearing in September that the contract clause entitled unionized employees in Kingston and North Bay to an improved Common Plan, negotiated elsewhere, rather than a completely different one.

Arbitrator Barry Stephens sided with CWA Canada: “As I interpret the ‘me too’ provision, the Windsor plan is a ‘different benefit plan’ in that it is not the Common Plan negotiated in Kingston or North Bay, and it is superior to the Commom Plan that was provisionally agreed to in Kingston and North Bay.”

Diane Fink, president of the North Bay Newspaper Guild (Local 30241), said she and the 24 members who work in the office and production, “were elated with the outcome of receiving the same benefit plan as Windsor.”

The Guild had signed a four-year contract in December 2017, “with no wage increase until the fourth year and a very small one. Having the arbitrator rule in our favour will reduce medical and dental expenses dramatically for our members.”

Debbie Newton, president of the Kingston Typographical Union (Local 30204), said it was important for the 19 members in editorial and advertising to have “more than the minimum of benefits. The flex plan that we have enjoyed for about four years was about to be cut. With only a 0.5-per-cent wage increase in the fourth year of the contract, the clawback of the benefits hurt members financially.”

Wilson said the differences between the two plans can amount to thousands of dollars per employee, depending on personal circumstances.

The Windsor plan provides 100-per-cent coverage for drugs and dental, high or no caps on extended health care such as physiotherapy, and six months paid sick leave.

The Common Plan provides 80-per-cent coverage for drugs, a $1,000 maximum on dental, and a cap of $300 on extended health care. Sick leave is 30 days fully paid, dropping to 70 per cent for the next five months, then long-term disability after that.

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