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In February 2005, the union and Kwantlen entered into a Memorandum of Agreement, negotiated in a mediation session. The MoA provided for a signing bonus, which was to be "2% of gross 2004 earnings to a maximum of $1000. The employer calculated the signing bonus as 2% of earnings, not including taxable benefits. The union filed a grievance, asserting that "gross 2004 earnings" should include all earnings including taxable benefits. The amount of money was nominal, but the principle is important to our members.
The union also filed a second grievance arguing that auxiliary employees, who did not receive the signing bonus, should have received it. The union was unable to proceed successfully with this grievance, as the MoA states that only employees who "normally have access to the Training Accord funds" will receive the signing bonus. After an extensive search, the Union was unable to find examples of Kwantlen auxiliaries receiving training accord funds, and could not proceed with the grievance.
At a special bargaining unit meeting at Kwantlen's Surrey campus on May 3, 2006, members of the bargaining unit gave input on the grievances and elected a committee to attend the arbitration hearing and advise the Advocacy Staff Representative.
At a mediation session with Arbitrator Joan Gordon on May 8, 2006, the union and the employer successfully negotiated a settlement. Every regular employee who received less than the $1000 maximum signing bonus in June 2005 will receive a payment of $15, less taxes, on a regular paycheque before June 9, 2006.
This settlement was approved by the elected committee, and represents a substantial victory for the union. Although the financial gain is small for each member, the union was able to require the employer to explain and justify their arbitrary calculations of last year's signing bonus, and to compensate members for a significant portion of their losses.