Peterborough – The union, representing 45 public health inspectors, clerical staff and Registered Practical Nurses (RPN’s) at the Peterborough County Public Health Unit, has begun strike preparations after repeated attempts to negotiate a fair collective agreement on behalf of its members.
“We remain committed to negotiating a fair collective agreement,” says Dave Sargla, president of local 4170 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “But we have begun to prepare our members for a strike because our employer has failed to put forward a reasonable position on several outstanding issues.”
At issue is a move by the employer to impose Saturday work without proper over-time compensation. Currently, the workers earn time and a half for weekend work. The employer wants to shift that to a $5 shift premium and force the workers to work more weekends, up to 24 Saturdays, with no language to ensure workers aren’t working all their Saturdays in a row.
“We have offered solutions to address the Saturday work issue,” says Chris Eaton, CUPE 4170 bargaining committee representative. “We only want assurances that workers will be able to spend some time with their families, and we believe the best way to do that, is to ensure we don’t work two Saturdays in a row, and limit the number of Saturdays an individual member has to work – it’s a fair solution to address the needs and share the work in an equitable manner.” Currently, the employees’ normal operations are from Monday to Friday.
“Negotiations have been frustrating so far,” says CUPE National Representative Charlene Avon. “The employer has been bullying our members, refusing to address any issues unless we capitulate on the Saturday work issue – this change would represent a major shift for our workers and affect the quality of life they enjoy with their families.”
“We’re particularly disappointed the employer is pushing for this after all the hard work we did voluntarily to help our community during the recent floods,” says Sargla. “We are dedicated public sector workers and we are simply asking for a fair process here.”
The workers perform public health inspections, and offer advice to residents on care for newborns, and help prevent the spread of disease and infections in Peterborough County. Their contract expired October 31, 2003.
“We’ve been trying for almost a year to settle our contract, and we are prepared to return to the bargaining table to prevent a strike,” says Eaton. “But for us to succeed, we need to see a change in attitude on management’s part – and an injection of fairness into the process.” No further meetings are scheduled, as the employer refused an offer made by the union to meet and continue bargaining.
For further information, please contact:
CUPE National Rep.