REGINA, SK. - Union leaders representing 1,600 striking civic workers have asked the city to resume contract negotiations.
In the letter sent yesterday to city negotiator Wayne Sakires, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Representative Malcolm Matheson said: “We are committed to achieving a negotiated settlement and fail to see how one can be achieved if the parties do not meet.”
It’s the second time since the strike began on August 31 that the civic unions have asked the city to return to the bargaining table. So far, the city has refused, stating it is not prepared to improve its offer of five per cent over three years.
But striking civic workers say there is at least one other wage proposal acceptable to the mayor and city councilors – the formula they use to determine their own salary increases.
Regina civic officials (who use the same formula as provincial politicians) receive automatic increases on April 1 of each year that reflects the cost-of-living the previous year. In 2004, for example, they received a 2.8 per cent increase and in 2005 they received a 2.3 per cent increase. In 2006, they are entitled to a 2.2 per cent increase.
“If it’s good enough for the mayor and city councillors, it’s good enough for us,” says CUPE Local 7 President Eva McKaeff. “In fact, it’s much better than the city’s offer to us,” she says, adding that “double standard” was a factor in last week’s vote to reject the city’s offer.
“The city’s hypocrisy smells as bad as the garbage,” says CUPE Local 21 President Tim Anderson, whose members stopped collecting the garbage last Wednesday.
The strike by 1,400 inside and outside city workers represented by CUPE Locals 21 and 7, and 220 transit workers represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 588 is the first, massive civic strike in Regina’s history.
“Our members are incensed that this mayor and council would take an increase of 2.8 per cent in 2004, but insist that they [front line city workers] have to swallow a zero. That’s going down like bile,” Anderson says.
But striking civic workers would probably accept the funding formula used by the mayor and council, says ATU local president John McCormick. “It amounts to increases of more than 7.3 per cent over three years. Our members would not pull ahead with this increase because it only covers the cost-of-living, but at least we would not fall any further behind.”
Although civic officials (on the heels of provincial politicians) decided to rollback their automatic increases because of public criticism over their insistence that everyone else accept 0-1-1, Mayor Pat Fiacco has stated publicly he doesn’t want to change the formula because “it works.”
Union leaders want to talk about how it could work for civic workers too, when the two sides get back to the table.