Striking Prince Albert workers request mediator from Sask. government

A Local CUPE 882 union member waves a flag at passing traffic while picketing one block away from City Hall on Monday, Sept. 11. – Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

UPDATED: This story has been updated to add a statement from the City of Prince Albert.

Striking CUPE 882 members are asking the provincial government to appoint a mediator to help resolve its labour dispute with the City of Prince Albert. The City, however, says a mediator is unnecessary. 

According to a news release, the union has written a letter to the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety.

“The union is of the belief that an impartial third party experienced in labour relations, negotiations, and mediation will be able to bring the parties to a resolve,” said CUPE national representative Mira Lewis.

“Keeping workers on the picket line and the community without resources and programming that City of Prince Albert inside workers provide is unreasonable, given that the parties to the dispute are not very far apart.”

CUPE 882 is asking for a 12 per cent wage increase over four years, while the City has offered 11 per cent, with an additional .5 per cent for the lowest paid employees.

According to the union, this one per cent difference would cost the employer $50,000 a year. The City provided the cost breakdown to CUPE 882 at a meeting last week, and said it would consider a new offer.

“While the costing provided was incomplete, the union nonetheless provided the employer a new offer to settle. However, the employer did not consider the union’s offer,” reads the release.

According to the City’s director of corporate services, Kiley Bear, the union’s offer still included a 12 per cent wage increase, but also prioritized vacation and premium pay.

“These items do not assist with cost of living, recruitment or retention, which are our priorities,” she said.

“We considered it carefully, but we are further apart than they are willing to admit.”

CUPE 882’s latest offer included increases to vacation and additional duty pay, benefit adjustments for eyeglass coverage and adjustments for casual employees. According to the City, the total costing is around 14 per cent.

“We’ve already been through the mediation/conciliation process,” added Bear.

“We cannot consider a proposal that comes at more cost to the taxpayer, but we can discuss priorities within the 11.5 per cent. We not require a mediator to have that discussion.”

Workers on the picket line are from City Hall, the EA Rawlinson Centre, Frank Dunn Pool, Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse and the Art Hauser Centre.

The City has vowed that operations will remain “business as usual.” It says it has contingency plans in place for the next six months.

– with files from Jason Kerr