NELSON For as long as labour leaders and observers can remember, there has never been a lockout of municipal workers in British Columbia. This all changed last Friday when the City of Nelson locked out its city workers, denying core services such as transit and garbage pickup to their taxpaying residents.
This is unprecedented, says Barry ONeill, CUPE BC President, whose union represents Nelsons city workers. I certainly havent come across a municipal lockout in my quarter century in BCs labour movement. CUPE BC is the largest union in the province and of its 70,000 members, 26,000 are municipal workers.
When a city locks-out out its workers, it doesnt just make it difficult for a few people. It makes it difficult for the whole community kids who rely on public transit cant make it to school, garbage piles up outside of homes and stores, and community events are cancelled because the parks and fields arent tended to.
And Nelson is a city of tourism. It wont be long before businesses in the community start to feel the effect of tourists staying away from a city in Nelsons worsening condition, ONeill adds.
The city workers have the sympathy and support of many Nelson residents who regularly visit the picketlines that have gone up around the City Hall, Civic Centre, Works complex and greenhouses.
The local, CUPE 339, has launched an I want to work, not walk community outreach and media campaign which asks supporters to call and/or e-mail Nelson Mayor Dave Elliot and City Councillors and tell them to: (1) restore city services, (2) end the lockout, and (3) stop contracting out public jobs.
A community celebration, bbq, and March to City Councils monthly meeting planned for Monday, June 21st, 2004 is expected to attract hundreds. CUPE BC President Barry ONeill will be speaking and will be joined by BC Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Angela Shira.
In support and solidarity, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1518 has generously offered to provide food and refreshments for the bbq to feed all those in attendance. Organized labour from across the province have been sending in letters of support, donating lockout support funds, and joining the picketlines.
This is one fight the City of Nelson will regret picking, says ONeill. The sooner they get back to the bargaining table, the better for everyone.
CUPE 339 represents the City of Nelsons 74 city workers who havent had a labour dispute in their 55-year history.
Barry ONeill, CUPE BC President, (604) 916-8444; Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, (778) 229-0258.