This year may have started off looking kind of bleak for the SS Sicamous, but late last week, organizers got some welcome news that the CUPE local on board the boat had been decertified.
The decision by the B.C. Labour Relations Board went into effect on Oct. 21, decertifying the single-person union that was formed on Dec. 2, 2010. The decertification alleviated another of the many difficulties the SS Sicamous Restoration Society has been dealing with since they reorganized in April to deal with the financial and labour problems.
“This concludes a very difficult period for the SS Sicamous. The union certification was a prominent reason for the collapse of the previous board of directors,” said Jim Cooper, president of the society. “We are glad to have this resolved so that we may move on with preserving the ships of our marine museum”
Cooper said CUPE approached the volunteer board about decertifying the Sicamous, and applied for it as part of a settlement mediated by the Labour Relations Board.
“It was our position all along that the union certification was inappropriate for this type of operation and the number of employees that we have. I think the union finally realized that was the case,” said Cooper.
There was a bit of negotiating, Cooper added, and a settlement with the single union employee, who has been laid off since last year.
“It was a difficult process and I don’t think it made much sense for them,” said Cooper. “Also, we found that in our meeting in April, a lot of people were upset about the certification and withdrew their volunteer activities.”
The decertification frees the board to continue with their reorganization and Cooper hopes it will help bring back volunteers willing to help out with the ongoing operation of the boat.
“All my energy over the past year has been spent dealing with that. It has frustrated people and it has taken us away from doing other things,” said Cooper. “It was hard to fill the board this year because of that issue. I think people are going to be a lot more willing to get involved again.”
Greg Hollingsworth, the director in charge of fundraising, said the whole board is optimistic about getting the union issue resolved, one of several issues the newly reorganized board was facing.
“It was a tough situation for us. We put a plan in place in April when we took over as the board to cut a lot of expenditures and put the old girl on a financial footing that will work for her, said Hollingsworth. “It was a tough year for us, it was a tough summer.”
Cooper said the future for the Sicamous looks a lot brighter now, after a successful, if quieter, summer on board the boat.
“We ran a pretty lean ship this year and we need to continue to do that until things are fiscally better,” said Cooper, adding that the city came through with their operational grant, and the Sicamous is financially back in the black.
Now, he said, the board is able to concentrate on the ongoing restoration and enhancement of the boat.
“We want to get the lights back on the ship, hopefully before the end of this year,” said Cooper. “That’s something that a lot of people have commented on, that they miss the lights.”