Union representing outside workers votes in favour of job action

Herald file photo

The City of Prince Albert’s outside workers are one step closer to hitting the picket line after voting in favour of strike action up to and including a withdrawal of services.

Roughly 80 per cent of CUPE Local 160 members voted in favour of job action at a meeting held on Thursday. CUPE Local 160 president Leslie Mourot Bartley said there are still several steps to take before members start striking. She hopes this vote will “send a clear message” to the City.

“Collective bargaining is a process that only works when both sides are willing to give up a little to reach a settlement,” Mourot Bartley said in a press release. “Our bargaining team is willing to look at compromises that work for both parties, but that can only happen with meaningful movement from the employer.”

CUPE 160 represents workers at the City’s water treatment plant, waste water treatment plant, sanitation department, parks and recreation department, roadways, rink operations staff, airport maintenance workers, cemetery staff, and janitors at all City facilities.

Mourot Bartley said the City has not moved on several union proposals, such as a provision for domestic violence leave. She also said the City wants a reduction in sick days, changes to overtime call back, and hours of work for some classifications. She said those concessions are unacceptable.

“The employer keeps pointing to other wage offers across the province saying that their offer is better, but they ignore the fact that the agreements they are pointing to have significant improvements beyond wages, including expanding health coverage, vacation improvements, new wage grids, increases to premiums, and other language improvements,” she said.

Union members have been without a contract since December.

The City of Prince Albert released a statement on Thursday saying they were already preparing for a potential strike. Kiley Bear, the City’s director of corporate services, said any disruptions would be limited.

The City has offered CUPE 160 an 11 per cent wage increase, the same increase offered to inside workers, who are currently on strike.

The lowest paid employees would also get an increase, bringing their wages up to $19.44 from $15.83, and airport maintenance workers would see an increase during the winter to $28.29 from $27.68. The offer also includes a shift differential increase for water treatment plant employees.

In return, the city is requesting employees contribute one of 15 sick days to a “sick bank” for short-term disability. Additionally, it’s asking that when an employee is sick, they cannot take an overtime shift within 24 hours unless the callback list has been exhausted.

–with files from Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald