P199, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia

As contract negotiations with the Town of Cochrane drag on into their fifteenth month, workers have voted overwhelmingly for strike action if the employer doesn’t come to the table with a serious plan to resolve outstanding issues around scheduling, inflation and equality within the bargaining unit, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

“This has been an incredibly frustrating round of bargaining, which has not been helped by all the turnover in the town’s management,” said Lyne Nolet, an operations clerk and president of CUPE Local 71, which represents the town’s non-management staff.

The previous collective agreement expired at the end of 2021. Members voted 96 percent in favour of strike action if needed to get the employer to address concerns in a timely fashion.

Outstanding issues include equal recognition of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation across all departments, scheduling issues and wages that have fallen behind inflation by nearly 12 percent since 2018.

“We are concerned about the ability to hire and retain staff in Cochrane,” said Nolet. “We all live, work and volunteer in this town. We’re very proud of our work, but it’s hard to feel respected when we’ve been without a contract since 2021 and when wages are far below inflation. And with the increases we’ve seen for the same positions in the private sector in recent years, it’s doubly true. The wages offered at the mines are really attractive by comparison. We lose a lot of good staff to them.”

The two sides are back at the bargaining table in June.

“The members have clearly expressed what they want,” Nolet said. “Now it’s up to Cochrane management to work with us and negotiate a fair contract. We are optimistic but are ready to take action to defend our rights.”