Striking union members voting on tentative deal with City of Prince Albert

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

CUPE 882 members are voting on a tentative agreement reached a couple of weeks ago with the City of Prince Albert.

It said results will be shared on Wednesday morning.

The union initially stalled the vote after learning that the city planned on continuing with a call centre system that had been established during the strike.

“We do not see the city moving forward with this issue, so we are letting our members decide our path forward by voting on the tentative agreement,” said CUPE national representative Mira Lewis.

“The union still has grave concerns about the proposed call centre, and structural changes the city wants to implement without negotiating with the union or receiving feedback from the impacted workers.”

The announcement comes after city council opted out of setting a bargaining date at its meeting on Monday evening.

Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp required unanimous support to have the motion discussed on Monday rather than in a month at the next meeting.

“We see people in the gallery. This affects their lives and it affects governance as well of our city. It’s a pressing, urgent issue,” she said.

The motion was denied 5-4.

Mayor Greg Dionne voted against it because the union hadn’t voted on the city’s final offer.

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.

The city says the call centre does not impact terms and conditions of employment, only that employees who answer calls would be moved to a shared room. The union, however, says it impacts work flow for at least nine secretary positions.

CUPE 882 began a full strike on Sept. 11, but have been taking job action since Aug. 10.

Council votes in favour of cost-savings report

Prince Albert city council has voted in favour of administration compiling a cost-savings report on the CUPE 882 strike.

Ward 3 Coun. Tony Head, who brought forward the motion, said the information is important ahead of budget deliberations.

“It’s very timely coming into budget – what are we not spending; what are we currently spending? I know I see heightened security, I see lack of staff,” said Head.

Lennox-Zepp supported the motion. She said council needs facts in order to make governing decisions, no different than receiving ongoing financial reports throughout the pandemic.

“It seems an absurdity to me to not receive this information on a periodic basis throughout this strike,” she said.

Dionne voted against the motion. With City Hall being short staffed, he said he didn’t want to take workers away from customers to compile a report when he knows the city has “big savings.”

He said he would, however, support a report once the strike is over.

Dionne said it would take administration three months to prepare the cost-savings report. Budget deliberations are set to begin in mid-November.

Head’s motion included an up-to-date cost-savings from the strike so far, as well as an overall cost-savings once CUPE 882 members return to work.

Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody was the only other councillor to vote against the motion.