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Union workers strike at Strathcona Gardens

Workers want cost of living agreement in new contract with SRD
From left are union workers Darrell Johansen, Meghan Sibley, supporter Carol Grant, and workers Daureen Evans, Deanna Movold and Laura Boyle. Photo by Marc Kitteringham / Campbell River Mirror

Strathcona Gardens employees are on strike today.

A dispute about the cost of living has led the workers at Strathcona Gardens to strike. The United Steelworkers Union, Local 1-1937 voted down a tentative agreement that did not address their issues — including meeting the increased cost of living — after months at the bargaining table.

Shelley Siemens, the Business Agent for the USW members said, “With the current cost of living continually rising, some of our members have indicated that they are working two jobs to stay afloat, some employees are making ends meat by renting rooms out in their homes.”

“There is no reason for this, the finances of Strathcona Regional District (available on their website) were healthy enough for the Management staff to award themselves with wage increases far above the cost of living,” Siemens said. “Our members just want one good job that pays enough so that they can spend time with their families and keep up to the rising costs of living too.”

The Union workers were on strike starting this morning at around 5:30, and will be engaging in rotational job action. They will be back to work on Tuesday, however they have not ruled out the possibility of future job action, or striking on a more permanent basis until a “fair and equitable contract is ratified by the members.”

“Our members are steadfast and they’re standing strong for a fair and equitable cost of living, and a fair contract,” Siemens said.

The SRD issued a press release on Monday afternoon that said “the employer believes that the wages paid to employees at Strathcona Gardens Regional District are fair and combined with an excellent benefit package including paid sick time and a defined benefit pension plan, provide fair compensation for the work being performed.”

The release also says that the tentative agreements had wage increases of two per cent per year, and 2.25 per cent for the fourth year.

“The same union bargaining committee is now demanding wage increases that range from a minimum of 6.77 per cent to 13.28 per cent in the first year of a new contract,” it said.

The USW bargaining committee has invited the SRD back to the bargaining table, and as of Monday morning has not heard back from the Regional District.

“I have extended an invitation for them to come back to the table,” Siemens said. “They know that we’re ready to talk anytime.”

Andy Adams, Strathcona Gardens Commission Chair said that “after what we’ve been through over the last 18 months with the pandemic, it is in everyone’s best interest to resolve this conflict without job action. We provide an important and valuable resource to the community and I hear regularly how grateful members of the public are to enjoy the recreation and leisure services that we provide. I remain hopeful that the union will agree to meet with an arbitrator.”

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

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

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