CAMPBELL RIVER – Last night, city workers ratified the strike averting deal made Friday between CUPE 401 and the city of Campbell River. The workers voted 90 percent in favour of the agreement, which ensures Campbell River’s water will remain public and that students are not used as replacements for regular employees.
“At the last hour, the employer moved,” says Blaine Gurrie, CUPE 401 Vice-President and negotiator. “It was a refreshing change from the demands for concessions and general lack of effective communication. We hope this will set a new tone for labour relations in Campbell River.”
CUPE 401 Campbell River city workers issued strike notice last Friday over a number of concerns – the most critical being employer threats to contract out water services and demands for contract changes that allowed students to be used as replacements for regular employees.
The new deal, ratified by Campbell River city council on Monday, includes the hiring of two more full-time water workers. Since full-time workers are protected by the anti-contracting-out language in the collective agreement, this work must remain in public hands.
“The employer has essentially committed to operating the service publicly, now and into the future,” says Gurrie. ”This is not only important to us, but to all Campbell River residents.”
In addition, CUPE 401 agreed to give the city some relief and flexibility on weekend work in the water department in order to enable waterworks to move to a seven-day operation.
In the new deal, students – who are paid $7 hour less than regular employees – are still offered an opportunity to work for the city, but their number, length of service and use remain limited. Students can work exclusively on Beautification projects initiated by council.
“Water services will not be contracted out in Campbell River and we will not be replaced by student workers,” says Gurrie. “That’s what you call a successful round of last minute bargaining – for everyone involved.” CUPE 401 had reached a tentative deal by 5pm last Friday.
The new contract is a three-year deal, retroactive to 2003. It includes wage increases of 2% in each year, full retroactivity, bumps in premium pay, small benefit increases and the conversion of jobs formerly considered “auxiliary” into permanent positions.
CUPE 401 represents over 160 Campbell River municipal employees who work at City Hall, airport, Community Centre, Centennial Pool, the Sportsplex, the public works department, waterworks, sewage treatment facility and the RCMP office.
Diana Bell, CUPE 401 (Campbell River) Bargaining Chair, (250) 287-2854;
Blaine Gurrie, CUPE 401 Vice-President, (250) 714-6150;
Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, (778) 229-0258.