City inside workers prepare for strike as early as Aug. 10

Prince Albert City Hall -- Herald File Photo

City needs to make offer that addresses ‘crushing cost-of-living’ says union vice-president

City of Prince Albert municipal workers could be set to strike as soon as Aug. 10 after weeks away from the bargaining table.

CUPE 882 represents City administration, information technology, bylaw enforcement, building inspections, recreation, and arts employees. On Thursday, the union announced that its members were preparing for job action, including a full withdrawal of services, due to an impasse with the City of Prince Albert.

“The city’s offer would leave city workers with less purchasing power at a time when everything is getting more expensive,” CUPE 882 president Tammy Vermette said on Thursday. “Despite the rhetoric from the City of Prince Albert, this offer does not address the crushing cost-of-living and instead asks their workers to do more with less.”

The union has accused the City of Prince Albert of refusing to meet after employees rejected the City’s last offer. The union said a mandatory conciliation process was unsuccessful, ending in half a day.

CUPE 882 vice-president Cara Stelmaschuk said city workers have accepted offers that do not keep pace with the rate of inflation, while Prince Albert’s mayor and city council have seen their compensation increase by 20 per cent from 2016 and 2021. Stelmaschuk said that’s double what City inside workers received during the same time.

“The City of Prince Albert works because our members do,” Stelmaschuk said on Thursday. “Asking them to accept increases below what Mayor and Council have given themselves is just not on. The City of Prince Albert needs to shelve the excuses and make an offer that addresses the crushing cost-of-living.”

The City of Prince Albert has offered an 11 per cent general wage increase over five years. That means the lowest income employees would receive an additional .5 per cent. CUPE 882 countered with a 12 per cent general wage increase, which would give union members an extra $15 every two weeks, on average.

Speaking to the media during a news conference on July 18, Mayor Greg Dionne said the CUPE proposal would be a significant cost increase to taxpayers. He also said the City’s offer would put Prince Albert workers in the 95 percentile when compared to other competitive markets.

“As a city council, we work hard to maintain the balance in between salaries and our responsibility to taxpayers,” Dionne said during the press conference.

“I am surprised, but the ball is in their court.”

CUPE 882 members have been without a contract since December 2021. The union reported that 79 per cent of its members voted in favour of job action at a meeting on June 26.

The City expects to close Kinsmen Park if the union goes on strike, however some facilities, like local splash parks, would be unaffected.

–with files from Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald