The City of Castlegar has a labour-relations issue boiling to the surface during a mid-summer heatwave.
City workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are reportedly gearing up for job action in relation to a contract which had expired more than a year ago.
Neither a deal, nor further bargaining appear imminent at this time and the Local 2262 membership is said to be holding strike training this week.
Impatient with the level of progress in bargaining, union Local 2262 President, Leford Lafayette has expressed frustration over the stalemate existing since the last contract, which CUPE says expired in July, 2013, but the employer says wrapped up in February, 2013.
“So far, the City has refused to discuss concerns about loss of work, has been unwilling to take concessions off the table and has even proposed a lower wage offer than in other Kootenay communities,” says Lafayette in an August 5 Market Wired press release. The same document includes the following quote from CUPE National Representative Lori Sutherland: “We want a fair and respectful contract so we can focus on serving the people of Castlegar – the last thing we want is a disruption to important public services.”
The City of Castlegar asserts, in its own August 5 press release that “CUPE booked out the mediator and refused to take the City of Castlegar’s final offer to a vote of the membership.”
The City’s communique indicated its “final offer includes a wage increase of 5.75 per cent over four years, no concessions, and numerous monetary and language improvements for employees.”
The City maintains employees are offered superior benefits in the municipal sector such as an increase in coverage for extended health benefits, paramedical services and optical care over the course of the agreement.
“The Union has been holding the spectre of strike over the City’s head for too long,” CAO John Malcolm is quoted in the management press release. “This is demoralizing for staff, disruptive to the City and a costly process for taxpayers. It is no way to advance labour relations or the public interest.”
Asked how literal the word ‘final’ in ‘final offer’ is, John Malcolm told the Castlegar News on August 5.
“We really tried to reach a reasonable and respectful settlement, and we thought we had a very reasonable offer on the table,” said Malcolm. “They really haven’t come back to us on it.”
Leford Lafayette said on Aug 6 his local is eager “to get back to the table,” though they feel the employer has not been bargaining in good faith. He said job security is a key issue, declaring, “Management has been bolstering its ranks, having management personnel do bargain unit work.” Leford referred to his experience in the private sector.
“I know what it’s like to train someone to do my job… then be out the door. This hits home for me.”