Firefighters union shows support to Prince Albert city workers on picket line

IAFF Local 510 President Ben Hunter (right) poses with CUPE 882 picketers outside of Prince Albert City Hall on Sept. 12, 2023. -- Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Prince Albert’s firefighters union is showing support for municipal workers who began picketing this week outside of City Hall.

“Striking is an unfortunate reality in the bargaining world, so it’s a necessary step in securing equal wages,” said Ben Hunter, president for International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 510.

“It will also show how important the workers are to this community and the jobs that they do.”

Hunter brought coffee and donuts to CUPE 882 members on Tuesday, which began full strike action on Monday. CUPE 882 represents inside workers at City Hall and recreation facilities.

The union began legal strike action on Aug. 10 by refusing to train others and ignoring dress codes.

“We’ve been without contract for almost two years now, December 21 of 2021, is when our current contract expired,” explained Hunter.

“We’re still working for those wages as well. That hasn’t changed.”

CUPE 882 vice-president Cara Stelmaschuk said it’s reassuring to have the support of other unions.

“It does remind you that we’re being told that the city’s taxpayers don’t want to foot the bill for this kind of thing – well, these union members are city taxpayers,” she said.

Stelmaschuk also encouraged people to continue honking as they drive by City Hall.

“It’s a boost, for sure. It’s just nice to hear that they’re on our side,” she said.

On Monday, the City said it will do what it has to, including using out-of-scope workers, to ensure operations continue like normal at city facilities. Contingency plans are set for the next six months, it said.

Stelmaschuk said CUPE 882 members are prepared to picket until the City returns to the table.

“We want to live on our wages more than we’re worried about winter,” she said.

“We’re just ready to go back with something that our members want and accept this time around, because we’ve rejected this offer twice now.”

CUPE 882 is seeking a 12 per cent increase over four years, while the City says its offer of an 11 per cent increase is final.

– with files from Jason Kerr