Tensions remain high on the picket line due to the City of Prince Albert delaying the ratification of the tentative agreement, and their reluctance to sign a return-to-work agreement that would pave the way for more harmonious relations moving forward.

“We had hoped that City Council would have called an emergency meeting to get our members back to work as soon as possible, but this did not happen. Mayor Greg Dionne could have called for an emergency meeting of council with 48 hours notice instead of waiting for the regularly scheduled council meeting,” said Cara Stelmaschuk, Vice President of CUPE 882. “Our membership voted in favour of this agreement over a week ago, but all we are seeing is more delays and threats from city leadership.”

On Tuesday, December 5, the union’s bargaining committee met with the employer, and special conciliator Kristin Anderson to negotiate a return-to-work agreement. This is a standard process after job action and lays out a path forward to minimize workplace conflict. The agreement covered everything from stopping unwarranted discipline to protection of seniority and vacation days that were already booked. The union also agreed to remove its Unfair Labour Practice application, and the complaints filed under the city’s Code of Ethics Bylaw.

On Tuesday evening, just hours after agreeing to a return-to-work process, Kevin Yates, Human Resources Manager, alerted the union that the city was unwilling to sign the agreement. During a meeting on Thursday morning, Mr. Yates outlined several new demands – including that the union convince its members to drop charges related to the ongoing police investigations, including the incident on October 17 where Mayor Dionne was recorded striking two workers with his vehicle on the picket line.

“The city is refusing to sign the return-to-work agreement that their own bargaining committee agreed to unless our members withdraw police complaints,” said Janice Janzen, CUPE National Representative. “It is inappropriate and potentially illegal for either the union or the city to attempt to thwart an ongoing police investigation.”

“Tensions are high, and the city continues to pour gas on the fire instead of trying to calm the water,” added Janzen. “Due to the city’s refusal to sign the return-to-work agreement, we are left with no other option but to picket city facilities and events – including the Little Mermaid. We will continue our standard practice of delaying traffic by walking across accesses. We know that this is causing a disruption, but there is an easy solution: we urge the city to sign the negotiated return-to-work agreement as soon as possible.”

“We know that the public is ready for us to return to work. We are also ready to get back to work and provide the services Prince Albert residents rely on,” said Stelmaschuk.