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CUPE members, city unable to strike a deal

Talks between the City of Campbell River and CUPE city workers ended once again yesterday without a contract agreement.

CUPE members and city staff met with mediator Debbie Cameron Tuesday and Wednesday to try and work out a deal.

Casey Thomson, CUPE spokesperson, said the city asked for more time to respond to CUPE’s demands but is hopeful a deal will be reached soon.

“We’re still optimistic we can get a settlement,” Thomson said.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

He said he couldn’t say how close the two sides are to an agreement but acknowledged “we’re still talking – that’s a good sign.”

Thomson said he planned to speak with Cameron Thursday afternoon, after the Mirror went to press, to determine where the two sides go from here and whether it’s worth getting back together.

“At this point, there’s no further meetings scheduled but the mediator may require more time,” Thomson said.

“We’re always open to discussion and open to a settlement, if it’s worthwhile. We don’t want to talk for the sake of talking, we want a tentative deal.”

Blaine Gurrie, president of of the Campbell River CUPE unit, said the union wants changes to working hours and changes to recall language for hiring back employees after being laid off.

CUPE workers have been without a contract since Dec.31, 2009.

Talks had been kept to a minimum to allow the city time to deal with the Catalyst Paper shutdown.

But three weeks ago, 137 of the 161 CUPE municipal employees voted 88.3 per cent in favour of strike action after going to the negotiating table 10 times prior.

However, workers have remained on the job while discussions with the city are ongoing.

Laura Ciarniello, the city’s general manger of corporate services, has said she doesn’t see job action happening but that a strike vote is part of the process.

Both sides are hopeful an agreement can be reached as soon as possible.

Campbell River CUPE members provide public services at City Hall, the airport, recreation centres, public works, waterworks and sewage treatment and the RCMP.

The workers are part of CUPE local 401, which represents workers in Campbell River, Nanaimo, Parksville, Ladysmith, Qualicum Beach and Lantzville.

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