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CBS warns of coming job losses in national meeting with labour


Canadian Blood Services says the organization of the future is going to require fewer people. Caught in a funding squeeze by their provincial funders, CBS says they have to compete with other health priorities and money is getting tighter and tighter.

“The focus is not on cost cutting, but on process improvement,” says Andrew Pateman, Vice-President of Talent Management and Corporate Strategy for CBS. Speaking in Toronto November 2nd at a national meeting of unions representing more than 4,000 CBS workers, Pateman spoke about using new technology and reducing steps to improve process efficiency.

Pateman said meeting with the provinces was like getting in a mixed martial arts ring. “We’re getting beat up,” he said.

In his 18 months with the organization Pateman says he has conducted two employee surveys, the results of the second being calculated now. He said he wasn’t surprised that staff felt that “management was not leading in the way they should.”

Both Pateman and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ian Mumford acknowledged they had work to do in better communicating with staff, including involving front line workers in the decision-making process. Mumford had specifically asked to address the meeting organized by labour.

The CBS COO said they expect managers to carry on a variety of roles from donor and client relations to good financial management. On top of that they are expected to be skilled negotiators and be able to manage labour relations between contracts.

“From an operations stand point, we have people at the table who have not been coached in how to do this,” said Mumford.

The unions – including several CUPE locals, a number of NUPGE affiliates and others – told the senior executives that their organization was inconsistent in the way it handled labour relations, creating frustrations among staff and inefficiencies for the employer. Over the two day meeting union members talked about having to go through the grievance process again for issues that had been already resolved at arbitration, or simply dealing with a revolving door of managers who interpreted the collective agreement differently than their predecessor.

Steve Saysell, an experienced OPSEU negotiator, said the union had offered labour relations training to both sides so that there would be an understanding of what the rules were, but that the union had been rebuffed.

The union advocated for a provincial labour-management committees to resolve issues rather than rely entirely on the grievance process.

Mumford and Pateman were told many of the local labour management committees were not working well and this was leading to costly grievances for both sides.

“What I’m hearing (today) is that in many areas our practice of labour relations lacks maturity,” said Pateman. “We’re behind the curve – our practices are not sophisticated enough.”

Mumford said he wasn’t going to apologize for focusing on financial challenges, but that didn’t mean financial considerations were more important than quality or the need to focus on people or the needs of CBS customers.

Mumford said that he wants to see a renewed focus on the quality process, changing the corporate culture to allow people to speak up when they see something they feel isn’t right.

Mumford said they recognized the large part-time workforce was an issue. He said he’d like to find a model that would be at the very least more predictable and provide a more sustainable living for staff.

“Scheduling is the number one issue everywhere I go,” he said.

Given CBS is warning of job losses in the next four to five years , Daunine Rauchert, CUPE Conference Co-Chair, said that this is an opportunity to make changes in the collective agreements to “be proactive in protecting our members.”

“We have to make a conscious effort to share the gains we make at the bargaining table in those areas,” she said.