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Labour standoff continues at Campbell River rec complex

Strathcona Gardens union says members ‘in an inflated economy as we have never experienced before’
Strathcona Gardens workers are ‘disappointed’ with the latest offer from the SRD, which they say does not take into account the ‘current economic crisis.’ Photo by Marc Kitteringham / Campbell River Mirror

A offer from the Strathcona Regional District to striking unionized employees at the Strathcona Gardens complex in Campbell River was “very disappointing,” according to the United Steelworkers’ (USW) business agent.

On Dec. 13, the union received a proposal from the SRD. The proposal came after a special meeting of the SRD’s Strathcona Gardens Commission, which was held in-camera on Dec. 10. The meeting resulted in an offer from the SRD that the union says is “very close to their last offer that the USW members had previously voted down.”

RELATED: Rehabilitation program users affected by lack of Strathcona Gardens facility

This new offer included a signing bonus – pending ratification – of $750. The bonus was to be pro-rated for part-time workers for the year 2021 “in which time most of the workers in the world were isolated at home,” the union release said.

The union then responded to the SRD with a counteroffer of a cost of living increase for 2021 (currently at 3.5 per cent) followed by subsequent increases of two per cent for the first year, two for the second and 2.25 for the third; or the cost of living, whichever is higher. In an attempt to bridge the gap, the union says it lowered the wage dollar value to 50 cents for 2022 and ‘23, and also lowered the wage dollar value to 50 cents for departments where the wage value is close to minimum wage.

Minimum wage in B.C. is $15.20 per hour.

In response, the SRD told the union that the offer was “out of line with municipal settlements,” according to the union.

“This was very disappointing to our members who thought that the Commissioners and the Corporate Staff at the SRD were going to take them seriously,” said business agent Shelley Siemens. She added that this was “not a realistic mandate as it does not reflect the current economic crisis we are all facing. Management personnel themselves earned in some cases between 13.53 per cent to as high as 48 per cent increases from 2018-2019.”

“To come out publicly and say that their employees now do not deserve a provision in their contract to protect against inflation when they, themselves, have earned a higher percentage with one increasing by thirty-nine thousand per year, is absolute hypocrisy,” she said.

According to SRD financial reporting, between 2018 and 2019, one member of management staff had an increase of $39,393 per year including expenses.

The union release says that the SRD has contacted B.C. Minister of Labour Harry Bains to “force the union to make their members vote” on the offer.

“The union does not agree that the SRD… should be able to just contact the government when they do not want to continue to bargain a fair contract with the unions, and especially not when the union is already out on an active strike,” the release says.

“Our members are serious about exercising their right to fair and free collective bargaining and this type of tactic is just more of the same deflect and stall tactic from these elected officials,” Siemens said. “Wasting everyone’s time including the communities who should be inside enjoying their recreation facility during the holidays that they pay taxes on.”

The USW has asked the SRD to come back to the bargaining table.

The SRD said they have no further comment.

RELATED: Strathcona Gardens strike continues

Minor hockey players and parents protest SRD office to support striking staff

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Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Campbell River Mirror in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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