Greenpeace's Toronto office has seen a lot of demos in its time, but the one outside its Dundas Street door this week was something else. In what they are terming an illegal lockout, 10 of the organization's door-to-door canvassers have been maintaining a noisy picket.The trouble started when Greenpeace decided to end its successful 14-year-old door-to-door fundraising campaign in favour of phone canvassing targeting monthly donations.
According to Greenpeace executive director Peter Tabuns, the phone campaign, which has been going on for years, has made door canvassing no longer worthwhile. "We extended an offer to everyone in the door campaign,' he says, giving employees phone jobs with "comparable salary and benefits." Four employees have made the switch.
"We are shifting the focus of what we do," Tabuns explains, adding that as a non-profit Greenpeace is not alone in needing more substantial monthly donations rather than the one-shot contributions provided by the door-to-door team.
But according to the 16 canvassers, represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union, local 343, management has broken a collective agreement that is not due to end until December 31, 2003. Employees were given an October 30 deadline to join the phone campaign. "It's a completely different job," says Rob Cooper, " -- it's not an outreach program."
Contrary to what management claims, Cooper says the phone positions offer fewer hours than the door-to-door work and therefore don't have the same pay rate or benefits. This loss of hours for full-time canvassers has become the main issue. Only part-time positions will be available to phone canvassers. Gary Connolly, the union steward, says this would "represent a pay cut for all of us.'
Canvassers say that in door-to-door work they, too, had shifted toward encouraging monthly donations, and their goals included a monthly quota, which they have been exceeding. They hold that Greenpeace has attempted to renegotiate the terms of the collective agreement, leading to a situation that they say is not a layoff but a lockout of some of the organization's most dedicated employees.
Patty Clancy from OPEIU says Greenpeace met with the union in July to discuss the potential changes and had agreed to further talks. But Greenpeace's next move was to serve notice that the door-to-door campaign was shutting down.
Cooper, reading from the union's leaflet, charges that the organization has a double standard. Tabuns, he says, "expects governments to honour environmental treaties they have ratified. We expect Greenpeace to honour this labour treaty that it has ratified."
"We're not anti-Greenpeace" protestor Shaine Macleod stresses. If the employees decide to continue their public campaign, they've already got training from best in the business.