Representatives of the Capital Regional District and CRD employees were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract last week during a mediation attempt in Victoria.
The Greater Victoria Labour Relation Association, representing the CRD, and CUPE 1978 — which includes up to 1,000 CRD employees — were in negotiations on a new deal, but could not agree on one major point: a pay raise of 14 per cent for auxiliary workers, which make up about 500 staff members.
“It’s an additional payment to offset the lack of benefits they receive,” said CUPE 1978 President Rick Illi. “As an auxiliary worker they receive no sick time, no extended health… this premium is to help with that.”
While Illi calls 14 per cent a “modest” increase, the GVLRA did not agree.
“We have a difference of opinion in terms of where that number should be,” said Kevin Murdoch, Board Chair of the GVLRA.
An application by CUPE 1978 and the GVLRA was filed to the Labour Relations board on Monday to determine what essential services must still be provided by employees if job action is taken.
This process takes into account the roles that could not partake in any job action — such as a walkout — because it would put the health and safety of the general public at risk. These positions might include senior staff at water treatment or sewage treatment facilities, or 911 operators.
CUPE members voted 93 per cent in favour of a strike several weeks ago, in case negotiations come to a standstill. CUPE would still need to issue a 72-hour strike notice should they choose to take action, however, Illi said, that a strike is something they want to avoid if they can.
“It could be as simple as an overtime ban, which would have no disruption of services,” Illi said. “At the far end is a full-scale job action, such as a strike. It’s not our intention to do that, we’re hopeful not to do that.”
Murdoch said the GVLRA certainly wants to avoid a strike, or any job action altogether.
“Our hope is to avoid any form of labour action, and reach the table and get to something that is mutually agreeable,” he said.
Murdoch added, however, at this point the ball is in CUPE 1978’s court.
“We’re focused frankly on getting a deal, and asking how do we find some resolution to this,” Murdoch said. “But, we also have to maintain our mandate to our client.”
Illi said that the GVLRA simply didn’t want to negotiate.
“It’s kind of baffling for us why they don’t want to have a discussion,” Illi said. “All we’re hoping to have is a meaningful discussion and an improvement for a significant number of employees. But, a dialogue requires two.”