A Need for Representation
SPATEA (SPAR Professional and Allied Technical Employee’s Association) was initially formed in 1977. Employees, at that time, had long-standing and growing dissatisfaction with arbitrary, unilateral-decisions concerning career goals, working conditions and salaries. The Association was created to represent employee career concerns in discussions with the Company.
When the Company refused to recognize the new Association, SPATEA applied to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) for recognition as a fully accredited labour union of professional and allied technical employees.
Foundation of a Union
An interim certificate was issued in 1978. The Company challenged the inclusion of the Group Leaders and Section Chiefs on the grounds that they were managerial. The Association was officially certified in 1979 with the first contract being effective in March 1980.
Expansion and Consolidation
In 1981, employees at the David Florida Laboratories (DFL) location formed the second bargaining unit of SPATEA. Their first contract became effective in 1981.
Since 1981, contracts have been ratified in 3-4 year timeframes. The 1991 contract extended recognition for the Toronto Bargaining Unit to the new facility in Brampton. DFL and Toronto unit were negotiated simultaneously.
Decades of Change
Between 1999 and 2008 SPAR Aerospace changed ownership several times, with divisions of the organization being broken up and sold to different companies, and with the Robotics and Space Operations business units consolidating once more under MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, then MD Robotics, in 2001. In 2017 the organization was rebranded once again, this time as Maxar Technologies, and its headquarters moved to America. A private Canadian investment firm purchased a swatch of Maxar’s assets in 2020, and branded the new entity, simply, MDA. Under this new private ownership, MDA became a publicly traded company in 2021.
It’s in this environment of continuous change in leadership, direction, and priorities that SPATEA has worked to represent the interests of the workers.
Negotiating for the Membership
Over the years, many issues were negotiated by the Association and included in the collective agreements:
- Improved pay levels
- Processes for progression through the engineering/technical levels
- Specific salary increases in addition to performance increases
- Paid holidays
- Layoff allowance/severance pay package
- Defined grievance procedure
- Introduction and codifying of leaves (maternity, bereavement, etc.)
- Benefits package
- Bonus payment plan
Over the years, the Association has handled various grievances with the Company. Many were settled with discussion and mutual agreement, which is the preferable approach. Some have required arbitration, which the Union also supports. And some have required job action, which SPATEA has addressed head-on.