The provincial New Democrats have a proud history of standing shoulder to shoulder with their union brothers and sisters. But it seems they're not going to let that history get in the way of a business decision. Last week, Public Eye reported the party had awarded IdeaWorks Consulting Inc. and Viewpoints Research Ltd. a contract to do their polling work during the next election, beating out Strategic Communications Inc. But there's just one nagging detail that has some insiders hot and bothered.
It turns out Stratcom's Vancouver call centre is unionized. But the same cannot be said for Viewpoints 32-person phone bank in Winnipeg. And the one unionized call centre the company did have was shutdown in 2002, less than a year after its 38-workers were certified by the Telecommunications Workers Union and before they had signed their first collective agreement.
According to company co-owner Leslie Turnbull, Viewpoints closed its Vancouver office because, "We didn't have enough business to sustain an office and an operation." After all, the company had been the provincial government's main pollster, taking in $1.2 million of work between fiscal 1997/98 and 2000/01. But when the New Democrats lost the last election, those contracts dried up.
She then added Viewpoints, "made all of our financial information fully available to the union and we reached an agreement with the union to provide severance to the interviewers."
Ms. Turnbull, whose business partner is Manitoba Premier Gary Doer's wife Ginny Devine, didn't know how much work the company currently does in British Columbia, except to say Viewpoints "had a significant amount of clients" in the province.
She directed specific questions about the company's relationship with the New Democrats to party secretary Gerry Scott. When we asked him whether there were any provisions in the polling contract requiring Viewpoints to do their phoning at a unionized call centre, he told us, "We'll see...No arrangements have been made. I'm not commenting on what's in a contract...It's none of your business what contracts we've signed. What and when I sign a contract has nothing to do with your life."