05/29/2015 02:26 EDT | Updated 05/29/2015 02:59 EDT

NDP Union Says Relationship With Party Not 'Utopian'

Concerns brew over a recent memo circulated to NDP employees.


OTTAWA — The NDP union’s head says its relationship with the party is not “utopian” but negotiations are still ongoing over some staff concerns that party managers want to stop filling vacant positions, offering any grievance settlements and won’t meet with the union till the next election is over.

“It would be misleading for me to tell you that we have a utopian relationship,” Anthony Sallum, president of the UFCW local representing staff of the federal NDP caucus, said with a bit of a laugh.

“But like any environment where there is an organized bargaining unit for the staff, there are going to be issues that come up with management from time to time.”

Sallum is set to meet with some staff on Monday to update them about disagreements with management and some of the progress made so far.

A recent memo circulated to NDP employees by the union raised concerns that the party, as the employer, no longer planned to:

  • have any labour/management meetings before the next election;
  • consult the union over job postings;
  • offer any grievance settlements;
  • fill vacant positions;
  • continue collective agreement negotiations before the next election.

“For a party that gives so much lip-service to employee rights, claims to be pro-labour and advocates for free and fair collective bargaining, what is detailed above is actually quite surprising,” a former NDP employee said, insisting on anonymity.

Sallum told HuffPost, however, that some of the issues outlined in the memo have already been dealt with. For example, there will be at least one more labour/management meeting, he said.

“Some of those details in that memo are inaccurate, because things change everyday,” he said, without going into any detail.

The NDP is the only party with unionized staff on Parliament Hill. Its collective agreement expires at the end of 2016.

Union negotiations may not always go smoothly, Sallum said, but NDP staffers are far better served by having a unionized workplace than other who who don’t have a unionized workplace, such as those working for the Liberals and the Tories.

“Imagine a situation where, if you have an issue, you just call up a steward and say ‘Can you help me with this?’ and you leave it in their hands,” Sallum said. “And they are trained to be able to find an informal way to resolve it, as opposed to having to call a lawyer and try to register a lawsuit.

“We are far ahead of our political colleagues on the Hill. We are lucky.”

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