CUPE and City trade accusations of poor picket line behavior as inside workers reject latest tentative agreement

CUPE 882 workers picket outside of Prince Albert City Hall on Sept. 11, 2023. – Herald file photo

Accusations of heavy-handed conduct flew fast and furious after the union representing City of Prince Albert inside workers rejected the latest tentative agreement on Tuesday.

Roughly 81 per cent of CUPE 882 members voted to reject the latest proposal, sending both sides back to the bargaining table. CUPE National representative Mira Lewis said the union hopes administration takes the rejection to heart, and returns to negotiations prepared to get a deal done.

“We hope this will send a strong message to city council,” Lewis said in a press release. “Your workers are standing united and demanding respect.”

The next set of bargaining dates has not been chosen, according to a CUPE press release. The union says it will reach out to the City of Executive Director of Labour Relations Kristin Anderson to choose one.

Kiley Bear, the City of Prince Albert Director of Corporate Services, said the rejected vote means the union has to be more proactive if the two sides are going to come to an agreement.

“The mandate of the City of Prince Albert has not changed,” Bear said in a press release. “We cannot consider a proposal that comes at more cost to the taxpayer. Following the vote (Tuesday) night, we are considering our next steps. In the meantime, we invite the union to submit a new proposal for our review.”

Union members started job action on Aug. 10, with a full withdrawal of services on Monday, Sept. 11, that has impacted the Art Hauser Centre, E.A. Rawlinson Centre, and City Hall, among other locations.

Striking workers have made their presence felt outside City Hall honking horns and playing music while picketing the block. They’ve also picketed along 12th Street West not far from the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.

On Wednesday, CUPE 882 sent out a press release accusing Mayor Greg Dionne of driving through the picket line outside City Hall and striking two union members Tuesday afternoon.

The union says it’s the latest example in a string of acts that show “a complete disregard” for union members, who have faced months of verbal threats, bullying, and mean-spirited actions.

Picketers march in front of a vehicle driven by Mayor Greg Dionne while striking on Tuesday. — Screen capture/City of Prince Albert video

“This job action will end, and we will all have to go back to work together,” CUPE 882 vice-president Cara Stelmaschuk said in a press release. “We hope that Mayor Dionne apologizes for his actions and thinks about the tone he is setting for labour relations.”

“Mayor Dionne’s actions are creating a challenging relationship with city workers,” Lewis added. “We are saddened and disappointed that Mayor Dionne felt the need to push through the picket line regardless of the safety of city workers in front of him. His actions further erode the relationship and clearly illustrates a lack of respect.”

The union is in conversation with two members involved in the incident, according to the press release, and have reported the incident to police.

The City of Prince Albert declined to comment on the interaction at this time since the matter has been referred to the Prince Albert Police Service.

In an email sent out Thursday afternoon, Bear wrote that management and members of the public continue to deal with picketers who “unlawfully block traffic at City Hall and other facilities.”

The City also accused CUPE picketers of using “disruptive behavior and intimidation tactics” at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre and City Hall. The City argues picketers have blown horns in the face of seniors, posted derogatory signs, and disturbed downtown businesses and customers by playing loud music and blowing horns “non-stop”.

–with files from Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald