Interviewed by Patricia Wejr
John Burrows was born in 1954 in Victoria BC. His career started at Victoria Plywood where his interest in unions was quickly ignited. John soon transitioned to the City of Victoria, progressing over the years from a casual role to supervisor in the sanitation department. John was active in his union and was voted president of CUPE Local 50 in 1994, a position he still holds today. In this interview, John reflects on more than four decades in the labour movement. Championing fairness, Local 50 advocated for auxiliary workers to have their seniority recognized and the opportunity for conversion to regular positions. They bargained an equal wage provision to disincentivize contracting out without disadvantaging contracted employees. John oversaw the unification of the city’s inside and outside worker unions and the success of bringing parking ambassadors in-house. Local 50 earned a reputation for activism and advocacy. John takes pride in his union legacy of never going backward in negotiations. They been reliable in supporting other workers, including during the Hospital Employees’ Union dispute of 2004, and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation dispute of 2005. It is this reputation that has allowed Local 50 to expand their jurisdiction by eight sub-units.
Keywords: Collective agreements; collective bargaining; strikes; labour education; grievances; civic employees; union structure; pay equity; precarious workers; arbitration; auxiliary employees; Commonwealth games; member communication; seniority; subcontracting; Victoria Plywood; City of Victoria; Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); New Democratic Party (NDP); Vince Reddy; Capital Regional District (CRD) Local 1978; Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU); BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF); BC Federation of Labour; Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)