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Union wants cost-of-living agreement in Strathcona Gardens contract

Wages ‘so far behind, that the minimum wage is almost caught up’ — Union
Workers at Strathcona Gardens are looking for a cost-of-living agreement. Photo by Marc Kitteringham / Campbell River Mirror

Discussion between the union representing workers at Strathcona Gardens and the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) have so far not led to a resolution on wages.

Back in August, the United Steelworkers union, Local 1-1937 and the SRD were unable to ratify a contract after almost a year of negotiations.

“Shortly after that, the union met with their members and after listening to the USW members it was determined that there were concerns of wage inequities and some language deletions,” said a press release from USW.

RELATED: SRD and unionized workers at impasse over Strathcona Gardens wages

The release goes on to say that union members voted 100 per cent in favour of a strike, and the union served a 72-hour strike notice to the SRD. After that notice, the SRD contacted the union to set up a meeting, which “the union was hopeful that this was a sign that the employer was willing to hear from the union and to work at making some positive and fair changes for the membership, and that there was a willingness to get back to the table to negotiate with a counter offer.”

That meeting was held on Oct. 25.

However, USW business agent Shelley Siemens said that “instead of negotiating a fair deal for their employees, the SRD chose to use this time to scold the bargaining committee for pointing out in a recent bulletin that the finances of Strathcona Gardens… were healthy enough for the management staff to award themselves with wage increases far above the cost-of-living and made the excuse that they were deserving of their wage increases stating it was because they were left far behind in the past. Which ironically is what the Union Bargaining Committee is saying is happening to their members today, but I guess what is good for the goose is not good for the gander.”

On Oct. 15, an SRD release said that proposed wage increases were “on par with other recently negotiated agreements on the North Island and Mid Island including the City of Campbell River, the City of Courtenay, the Town of Qualicum Beach, the Village of Cumberland, the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Comox Valley Regional District.”

However, Siemens disagrees, saying that increases were “substantially higher” in other similar facilities.

The union says that delays in the process have allowed the cost of living to rise higher than previously anticipated, and that members wanted to add a COLA clause (Cost of Living Adjustment) to the agreement as a fair way to address the increases.

“The members just want a fair and equitable contract that addresses the rising cost-of-living, and treats them with the same dignity and respect that allowed the employer wage increases when it was them that was being left behind,” the USW release says. “Again, the union is calling on the Employer to return to the bargaining table and realistically address our member’s concerns.”

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