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Minor hockey player demonstration ‘disrespectful’ — SRD

‘It’s embarrassing that Campbell River is touted as a ‘hockey town’ yet the local rink staff can’t get a fair wage’ — parent
Junior hockey players and their parents protesting outside Strathcona Regional District (SRD) offices in downtown Campbell River on the afternoon of Nov. 22. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror.

The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) responded to a demonstration held Monday afternoon setting “expectations for respectful demonstrations” during the strike action at the Strathcona Gardens facility.

Strathcona Gardens workers are currently on strike in an effort to get the SRD to come back to the bargaining table. The 82 unionized workers are looking for a cost of living adjustment over the next four years. Earlier this year, the two sides came to a tentative agreement, including wage increases of roughly two per cent per year.

RELATED: Minor hockey players and parents protest SRD office to support striking staff

However, the USW Local 1-1937 says the cost of living has increased since that tentative agreement and, with rising inflation, wants to see a clause that would allow wages to keep up with any future inflation over the next four years. The SRD wants to move forward and is asking the workers to come to binding arbitration, which would render a decision that all parties would be legally bound to follow. Neither side has agreed to the other’s request. However, both have sent multiple media releases on the subject.

The regional district has updated the Strathcona Gardens’ website with information on the strike. It says that the aquatic facility, fitness area and programming have all been suspended and that “the arenas remain open for booked ice user groups willing to cross the picket line.”

Non-unionized SRD managers are qualified to run the arena, the website says.

They also sent out a press release responding to events on Nov. 22.

SRD chair Brad Unger was “reminding the community about respectful conduct during the strike action at the Strathcona Gardens Recreation Complex.”

The release spoke against some “disrespectful behaviours” happening at the event, including banging on windows, swearing at employees, entering the building without masks and chanting through a loudspeaker held against the door.

”While much of Tuesday’s (sic) demonstration was respectful, some behaviours were out of line and purposefully intimidating to staff and disruptive to neighbouring businesses who have nothing to do with the facility closure or collective bargaining,” said Unger in the press release. “The Regional District will not tolerate disrespectful or aggressive tactics, nor will these behaviours help the facility reopen any sooner.

”I know that emotions are high; however, I call on the community to hold themselves to the highest standards of respect as we navigate this closure together.”

The Nov. 22 event was attended by minor hockey players and their parents who were frustrated about the situation.

“The minor hockey players that were there apologize for banging on the windows, but in their defense they are frustrated. First the rink goes through ice issues which left the rink with one ice surface, as the SRD is trying to bandaid repairs that need to be made in a aging building (but that’s another story), COVID hits and wipes out all games and travel (great time (in my opinion) to work out a deal with the workers) and now instead of sitting at the table like adults and hashing things out, the kids are neglected again by the SRD,” said parent Chad Braithwaite in an email to the Mirror.

“It’s embarrassing that Campbell River is touted as a ‘hockey town’ yet the local rink staff can’t get a fair wage,” he said. “The SRD and the managers of the complex continue giving themselves ‘healthy’ raises yet no extra work load or responsibility to earn those raises. It’s long overdue for the SRD to justify these raises or to have the public who’s taxes go to paying them to have a say.”