CAMPBELL RIVER – Mediated talks between the city of Campbell River and its municipal workers, represented by CUPE 401, have failed. The union has issued a 72-hour strike notice and plans to set up picket lines as early as Monday.
“We’ve listened hard and compromised to meet the employer’s demands for flexibility,” says CUPE 401 Campbell River bargaining chair, Diana Bell. “But bargaining is a two-way street and the city of Campbell River is just not listening. The members are fed up.”
In April, the municipal workers voted 91 per cent in favour of job action over employer demands for concessions in the areas of hours of work and use of temporary workers.
The city workers are also upset by what they describe as a general lack of respect evidenced by the employer’s refusal to meaningfully consider worker proposals for a long-term disability plan, seniority and recall rights for auxiliary workers, and contract language to protect against repeated employer threats to contract out city work.
Many times, the city has told the local that if they could not get their flexibility on hours of work for waterworks through the collective agreement they would go outside the agreement by contracting out. “We will get our concessions,” the workers were told by Human Resources, “and we’ll get them all.” Workers have also been told by HR that employees merely “rent their jobs,” creating concerns about job security and denigrating the value of their work.
The current collective agreement already allows the employer to rely heavily on “flexible” workers. Hired for temporary projects, auxiliary workers are often kept that way for years, excluded from the benefit plan as well as seniority and recall rights. Students are paid over $7 an hour less than regular employees. In some departments, like Public Works, over a third of employees fall into these two categories.
“We won’t allow ourselves to be threatened and bullied into signing a contract,” says Bell. “If the city can’t hear our concerns at the bargaining table, they’ll have to hear them from the streets. We want respect.”
The contract expired December 31, 2003. The over 160 Campbell River municipal workers provide quality public services at City Hall, the airport, recreation centres, Public Works, waterworks and sewage treatment (Norm Woods Environmental Centre) and RCMP.
CUPE 401 represents over 1,800 workers in a number of cities and towns including the city and Regional District of Nanaimo, cities of Campbell River and Parksville, towns of Ladysmith and Qualicum Beach the municipality of Lantzville, North Cedar improvement District and Vancouver Island Regional Library System.
Diana Bell, CUPE 401 (Campbell River) Bargaining Chair, (250) 287-2854;
Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, (604) 291-1940.