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CUPE 15 sues Vancouver park board over in-camera decision

The second-last Vancouver park board meeting before the municipal election featured an in-camera session in which commissioners voted to re-classify 15 union positions at Vancouver community centres as higher-salaried management jobs. The Oct. 6 decision, according to CUPE 15, violates sections 492 and 493 of the Vancouver Charter.

CUPE 15 has now filed a B.C. Supreme Court challenge to the deal, which CUPE 15 president Paul Faoro said is the only way to gain transparency on an issue that he thinks should have been more open at the outset.

"These in-camera meetings are becoming the flavour of the year," he quipped. "Section 492 and 493 of the Charter effectively says, the park board can spend money, but it can only spend money that city council has approved and funded. Section 493 says the park board can't spend more than the city council has funded."

According to Faoro, the cost of the newly-created managerial positions could be as high as $300,000, putting taxpayers on the hook.

"We have them not yet telling the public about the impact. We have filed an FOI request asking for the in-camera minutes. We've had no response from the park board," he said.

"The NPA park board control made this a political issue. This is the kind of stuff where we think proper debate, respectful discussion would be helpful. But unfortunately, the last three years, it's been absolutely hopeless."

The Oct. 6 in-camera session contained a decision to "kick out or exempt" 15 CUPE members who work as community recreation coordinators, according to Faoro.

The 15 affected members worked at community centres across the city, including False Creek, Dunbar, Kitsilano, Sunset, Marpole-Oakrdige, Douglas, West Point Grey, Hastings, Thunderbird, Renfrew, Trout Lake, Mount Pleasant, Champlain Heights, Kensington, and Strathcona. Following the in-camera park board meeting, the coordinator positions were re-classified as new community recreation supervisor positions, and employees were required to decide whether to accept the new position by Nov. 4. Their new, re-classified positions will be effective Nov. 24.

"A decision like this is taking 15 of our positions out of our union, effecting long-term service employees," Faoro said. "We're taking this very seriously."

Jackie Wong reports for the Westender.

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