City workers back talks with strike vote

A mediator has been called into handle contract negotiations between the city and its workers

  • Sep. 13, 2011 9:00 a.m.

A mediator has been called into handle contract negotiations between the city and its workers.

These workers have been without a contract since the end of 2009, and during the past week they voted 88.3 per cent in favour of strike action.

“We have now been to the negotiating table 10 times, twice with a mediator, but the City is still insisting on concessions,” said CUPE 401 Campbell River Unit president Blaine Gurrie in a news release.

The mediator has asked both sides not to discuss details of the concessions before the meeting, but Gurrie briefly mentioned changes to hours of work, and changes to recall language for hiring back employees after being laid-off as issues.

City of Campbell River general manager of corporate services Laura Ciarniello said that she doesn’t see job action happening, and called a strike vote “normal.”

“A strike vote is a normal part of the collective bargaining process,” said Ciarniello. “So it’s not unusual that the union would go to their members to get a mandate to make sure they’re going in the right direction and that they have the support of their members.”

However, Gurrie said he doesn’t like using the term “normal” when talking about a strike vote because it “diminishes the frustration of the members.” He also said that in the 38 bargaining agreements he has been involved in, only four strike votes were called, and that the vote means a strike is possible.

“Obviously it’s a possibility or we wouldn’t be doing it,” Gurrie added in an interview. “It’s certainly not probable yet, and it’s not our desire to see picket lines go up in Campbell River.”

The city and CUPE will meet again with a mediator on Sept. 22 and 23 to try to hammer out a deal.

Talks had been kept to a minimum until recently while CUPE gave the city time to deal with the Catalyst Paper situation.

Both sides said they are hopeful an agreement will be reached.

“We’re hopeful still,” said Gurrie. “Nobody takes a strike vote lightly, but we’re hopeful that the labour board, when they bring the mediator in, can help guide us to a settlement.”

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