CUPE 882 strike: Union calls for further negotiations with City of Prince Albert after new info on call centre

CUPE 882 Vice-President Cara Stelmaschuk pickets outside of Prince Albert City Hall. – Herald file photo

CUPE 882 says the City of Prince Albert needs to disclose further information and negotiate structural changes to City Hall before its members vote on a tentative agreement.

The union began a full strike on Sept. 11 after twice voting down an offer from the City. CUPE 882 has been without a contract since December 2021.

They reached a tentative agreement on Thursday, but quickly halted the membership vote.

The two parties held a meeting on Friday morning to discuss a return to work agreement, when the City notified CUPE 882 that a call centre had been established at City Hall.

“We expect that the union would honour the right of their members to cast their vote and we remain willing to share information about the call centre if they still have questions,” said Director of Corporate Services Kiley Bear.

“The fact remains that there have been no changes to the terms and conditions of employment, so there’s no need to delay the vote.”

Bear said the call centre was established during the strike. The City wants to keep the model because it’s “highly effective” for customer service.

Bear said there would be no changes to the employees who answer calls, just that their desks would be moved to a shared space – but the union says otherwise.

CUPE 882 said the change would impact at least nine clerk steno and secretary employees. According to a news release, this is almost 15 per cent of the union’s City Hall staff.

“They are changing the structure of how the work flows,” said CUPE 882 Vice-President Cara Stelmaschuk.

“Their jobs are not like one size fits all. The knowledge those people have is very specific to the departments they work in.”

CUPE 882 has filed an unfair labour practice application with the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board, seeking a ruling on the City’s conduct during bargaining.

The union has also asked the City to provide further information about the call centre by Thursday. This includes a list of impacted employees, how their job descriptions and day-to-day tasks will change and if their pay will be affected.

“There’s consultation that has to happen and we have to know about it,” said Stelmaschuk.

Bear said she was frustrated with the way the union described the call centre as “sweeping changes,” when there won’t be any job losses or impacts to job descriptions.

“It was, again, a pretty inflammatory way to just describe what we had shared with them earlier that morning. It’s not a dramatic change in the way that they have characterized it,” she said.

“We know that they’re dedicated employees and we want to bring them back in and work together with them to kind of focus on the future, repairing some of what has clearly been some damage in the relationship.”

The tentative agreement includes an 11 per cent general wage increase, including adjustments to bring the lowest paid employees above minimum wage, vision coverage for all employees and expanded EFAP coverage to include non-permanent employees.

CUPE 882 represents inside workers at City Hall and facilities such as the EA Rawlinson Centre, Alfred Jenkins Field House, Art Hauser Centre and Arts Centre.