CUPE city workers descended on City Hall Tuesday with signs and banners to capture the attention of city council.
About 80 Campbell River city workers jammed into the overflowing lobby just outside the council chambers to pass along information about their plight.
“We want to show solidarity and show city council we are together on this, we are unified,” said Laurence Amy, Vice-President of CUPE 401. “We want to show we do care about the City of Campbell River.”
CUPE workers have been without a contract since 2009 but serious negotiations between the city and the union have been ongoing since August.
Mediator Debbie Cameron was called in to help both sides negotiate in September but Amy said the union and the city are still between $135-and-$150,000 apart on a four-year deal.
Union members voted 88.3 per cent in favour of strike action more than one month ago but have yet to file 72-hour strike notice.
Amy said that could change if things don’t go well on Oct. 25 when the union and the city are scheduled to meet with the BC Labour Relations Board. The union has already filed for an essential services deal to determine what services CUPE would still have to provide in the event workers walk off the job.
“We’ve taken a strike vote and if things don’t go well on the 25th we need to establish what essential services are before we can go on strike – things like drinking water,” Amy said.
“The employer thought everything was essential and that’s why the Labour Board is involved.”
Amy said the union wants stability.
“The city is proposing to change hours for a number of employees and the overtime language that applies to these hours,” Amy said. “If they change our hours, they can change our overtime.”
Amy said the union is also looking for inflation-type wage increases and was particularly upset with the city’s recent hiring of a new safety co-ordinator manager.
“It was like kicking sand in our face,” Amy said. “They filled the position last week – a $70,000 position. We’ve seen a massive increase in city management staff.”
Amy said despite filing for an essential service deal, he’s “very optimistic” a deal can be reached.
CUPE workers provide public services at City Hall, the airport and recreation centres. They are also responsible for public works, waterworks and sewage treatment.
The city was unavailable for comment before the Mirror went to press.