There wasn’t as much cheer as usual at today’s city Christmas luncheon.
The City of Nanaimo’s CUPE 401 workers boycotted this year’s event, held Thursday, Dec. 7.
Mayor Bill McKay said there were some staff in attendance along with managers and councillors, but virtually no CUPE 401 members.
“There was an e-mail that was sent out to shop stewards and union members to get the word out to boycott that luncheon,” McKay said. “Our union and their membership appeared to have boycotted the lunch to protest employment conditions and I fully uphold their right to do so as a trade union.”
Coun. Gord Fuller said the absence of the union workers affected the event’s attendance, “big time.” He said he saw a union executive at the front of the building advising workers that they had a choice in whether to attend.
“I don’t know if that’s boycotting or not,” Fuller said, adding he would feel intimidated about attending if he were put in that situation.
Fuller said he hadn’t personally heard any concerns about working conditions.
“No one on city staff has come to me and mentioned any issues with the city and all I know is a lot of management positions have gone, but there hasn’t been one position at the city gone,” he said. “So I guess until we know actually what the issues are, it’s hard to fix.”
He said the union members’ decision not to attend the Christmas luncheon was “extremely unfortunate,” and said he can’t fathom the union’s strategy to do so at the last minute.
“If anybody on staff has an issue with anything, they should be contacting us directly and saying, ‘hey, this is what’s happening, is there anything that could be done about it?’ But at this point, I’ve heard nothing,” Fuller said.
The mayor was also asked what could be done to address workers’ concerns, and said, “I’m certainly not prepared to comment on what those remedies might be.”
The absence of hundreds of employees made for a different mood this year at the Christmas luncheon, McKay said.
“It was certainly a sombre event.”
CUPE 401 president Blaine Gurrie could not be reached for comment.