City inside workers to escalate work to rule notice

CUPE 882 members watch Monday’s special council meeting at City Hall where council approved an 11 per cent wage increase over four years for out-of-scope staff. The same offer was made to the City’s inside employees, who rejected it earlier this year. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The City of Prince Albert’s inside workers will escalate their work to rule measures following a special meeting of council where the City’s elected officials approved a wage increase for out-of-scope employees.

Starting on Wednesday, members of CUPE 882 will refuse to follow all uniform or attire policies, standards, conventions, and rules in all City facilities. Previously, members had only refused to train management, contractors, co-workers, or anyone else in any aspect of their job.

Union bargaining committee member Allan McKeand said they’re disappointed about having to escalate their work to rule actions, but still hopeful they can get the City back to the bargaining table.

“It really is about saying what’s best for employees (and) what’s best for management,” McKeand said following the special council meeting on Monday. “We’re willing to discuss and we’re willing to negotiate something that’s reasonable for everyone.”

McKeand and more than a dozen union members were in attendance for Monday’s special meeting. They watched as council voted 7-2 in favour of an 11-per-cent increase over four years for out-of-scope workers. The deal does not include backpay, which is expected to save the City around $80,000 this year.

The City has also offered CUPE Local 882 members an 11 per cent increase, but union members are asking for 12. The increase would provide workers with an extra $15 every two weeks, on average.

McKeand, who works as a concession manager with the City of Prince Albert, said the 11 per cent offer is not good enough for employees who are just starting out.

“To be arguing over one per cent or even five per cent, it just doesn’t make sense,” McKeand said. “You’re talking pennies on the dollar for them, and we do make money every year in the concessions.”

“My concession workers start at $13.28 an hour,” he added. “I think they deserve a lot more than $13.28 an hour to start at.”

Mayor Greg Dionne said the City of Prince Albert made the best offer it could to union members, and they have no intentions of increasing it.

“We put on the table everything we have, and that’s all we have, whether you’re in-scope or out-of-scope,” Dionne said after Monday’s meeting. “That’s why we moved ahead with it. Normally the out-of-scope gets whatever the in-scope does, but we have no more money and that’s the offer, and so we moved ahead for the out-of-scope.”

Couns. Tony Head and Terra Lennox-Zepp were the only two councillors who voted against the motion. Head, said during the meeting he’s concerned about how the current labour dispute will affect the relationship between the City of Prince Albert and its inside workers.

After Monday’s meeting, Dionne said they are always looking to improve the working relationship with City employees, but council has a job to do.

“I believe the relationships is still there,” he said. “Would I like to improve? Every time. I’d like it to improve every year, but unfortunately, in some circumstances, we all have to do our job.”

On the worker’s side of things, McKeand said he’s sad about how the current dispute has been handled, and concerned about their relationship in the future.

“I think it’s going downhill,” he said. “You’ve got to work with all these people. You see them every day. You work with them every day. You work with your managers every day. It’s something everyone works together for.

“I always think that the bargaining process is to make the workplace a better place for both: for management and for the staff. It isn’t one side or the other side. It’s two sides working together to make the workplace better, and I really, firmly believe that’s what’s happened over the last few years, but now it’s like it doesn’t matter.”