City workers still in strike position after attempt to return to the bargaining table

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

Inside workers for the City of Prince Albert remain in strike position beginning on Monday after an attempt to return to the bargaining table was rejected by the City.

In an attempt to reach a deal before a full withdrawal of services, CUPE 882 submitted a new offer of settlement on Friday.

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.

“Based on the limited costing information provided by the City on Friday, the union reduced the monetary costs of our proposal by reducing additional duty pay and vacation entitlements, and re-directing our wage improvement proposal,” Mira Lewis, CUPE National Representative said in a release.

According to the Union this is the first CUPE job action in over 12 years, and the first strike in CUPE Local 882’s 70-year history.

“We put forward a reasonable offer which we believed would be a good starting point for re-opening discussions,” Lewis added.

The Union was informed on Sunday afternoon that the employer rejected the new offer and still refused to negotiate.

“CUPE 882’s bargaining committee is ready and willing to sit down at the table and do the work needed to reach a deal before the strike deadline,” Lewis added.

“A deal cannot be reached without both sides talking to each other.”

Workers at the City of Prince Albert have been working to rule since August 10 by refusing to train management, co-workers, and contractors and ignoring dress codes. The union gave notice that it plans to move forward with a full withdrawal of services on September 11.

“Wages at the City of Prince Albert have stagnated. Many of our members are barely making minimum wage,” Cara Stelmaschuk, Vice President of CUPE 882, said.

“We know that recruitment and retention are an issue for the city. Improving wages and working conditions is the only way to address this issue.”

Though the city has been saying their 11 per cent offer is the best in Saskatchewan, many municipal settlements have all been higher than the City of Prince Albert’s offer, including the Town of Wakaw, Town of Biggar, Town of Watrous and the Town of Kindersley.

On Sept. 7 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 provide 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,” Kiley Bear, director of corporate services with the City said on Sept. 7.

This is the first CUPE job action in over 12 years, and the first strike in CUPE Local 882’s 70-year history.

-With files from Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald