Hundreds of CRD employees represented by CUPE Local 1978 have voted 93 per cent in favour of strike action in a vote on Thursday, May 31.
Despite several months of negotiation, the CRD and the local can’t reach a deal, said CUPE Local president Rick Illi.
In an interview with Black Press, Illi said there is an “impasse” regarding an pay increase for auxilliary workers who work on-call, which he said comprises nearly half the workforce of the CRD. They are in many departments, including animal control, parks maintenance and recreation (including Panorama Recreation). Because they are not permanent employees, these workers are not entitled to the majority of benefits in the collective agreement so instead they earn an hourly premium.
“One of our main priorities in this round of negotiations is a modest increase to this hourly premium for our most vulnerable members who often don’t have job security, reliable hours or consistent schedules,” he said.
According to Illi, the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association (which negotiates on behalf of employers like local governments) and the CRD have not been willing to consider the proposal.
“We find it particularly troubling that both senior managers and CRD directors recently received significant wage increases yet the CRD isn’t willing to consider this modest increase for some of its most vulnerable workers – that is what has led us to this strike vote,” adds Illi.
He said this strike action vote does not mean an impending strike, but is a sign the workers agree with the union’s point of view at the bargaining table, and are prepared to strike if an agreement cannot be hashed out. Illi said that the union plans to file for mediation to attempt to resolve negotiations without strike action through a B.C. Labour Relations Board appointed mediator.
Before taking any strike action essential service levels would need to be negotiated and the union would have to serve 72‑hour strike notice.
In an interview, Kevin Murdoch, chair of the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association that represents the employer, said the notice was not a surprise and accepted a mediator. He said the GVLRA “takes seriously the need for good and healthy work environments.” He remained optimistic a deal could be reached.
“We totally respect this process,” said Murdoch, “and we’re pretty hopeful we can get to a settlement thorough the mediated process.”
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