City of Prince Albert stands firm on CUPE 882 offer as Monday deadline for strike action nears

Members of CUPE 882 rally outside of Prince Albert City Hall on Aug. 28, 2023. – Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald

The City of Prince Albert isn’t budging on its offer to CUPE 882 employees, despite the Monday deadline creeping closer for strike action.

CUPE 882, which represents employees at City Hall and recreation facilities, says it will be fully withdrawing services on Monday if it hasn’t reached a tentative agreement with the City.

Union members have twice voted to reject the City’s offer of an 11 per cent wage increase over four years, with an extra .5 per cent for the lowest-paid employees. The union has countered with a 12 per cent increase.

“I understand this is designed to put pressure on the City, but it does not change the fact that this is a good offer and we will not ask the taxpayers of Prince Albert to pay more,” said Kiley Bear, director of corporate services with the City.

Bear said the union’s counter-offer would require a 2.4 per cent mill rate increase next year.

Mira Lewis, who’s responsible for bargaining with CUPE 882, said the union doesn’t want to go on strike.

“We’re not demanding that the employer agree to the last offer that we put on the table – we’re saying we want to get back to the table and talk,” she said.

“I don’t understand how it’s come to this,” added Lewis. “It’s always been a decent relationship, and we have gone to the labour board, we have had arbitrations, but very few.”

CUPE 882 has been in existence for 70 years and has never had a strike. In Saskatchewan, CUPE’s last strike was in 2007.

“The only way to create solutions, to come to an agreement is at the table,” she said.

“I know it’s getting down to the short strokes, but there’s a lot of hours between now and Monday.”

Bear said the City’s 11 per cent offer is the best in the province, yet the union is “doubling down on their position that this is a low ball offer.”

Lewis said the City isn’t meeting the needs of staff who are struggling with the cost of living.

The City has approved the same 11 per cent increase for out-of-scope workers. However, Lewis said managers make a significant amount more, and that the increase isn’t fair to a union worker who makes $40,000, for example.

CUPE 882 has been taking legal strike action since Aug. 10. Employees started with refusing to train managers, coworkers and contractors, followed by foregoing dress codes, policies, conventions and standards.

If they haven’t bargained by Monday, Lewis estimated 130 employees would go on strike. This includes workers at City Hall, the EA Rawlinson Centre, Art Hauser Centre, Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse, Frank J. Dunn Pool and the Arts Centre.

The City said it’s assessing its operations and will provides updates if CUPE 882 moves forward with a full strike.

“Our offers stands and we are prepared to sign the deal today if they are,” said Bear.