Members of the CUPE 626 working for the District of Coldstream, BC have voted 96 per cent in favour of taking job action in a strike vote held late last week.
“This is not an action we take lightly,” said CUPE 626 President Bryce de Dood. “We’ve been working to resolve this issue at the bargaining table but are facing demands we simply cannot accept.”
The parties began bargaining in May and made substantial progress in six full days of negotiations. Talks broke down in August with the District seeking a wage settlement lower than surrounding communities and below the provincial average for municipalities. Frustrating the situation further, the District has demanded a longer term than proposed by the union, a move the union claims would amplify the negative impact of the employer’s proposed below average wage settlement.
“Just like many residents across the Okanagan, our members are struggling with affordability challenges due to rising housing and other living costs,” said de Dood. “The employer’s proposal would lock us into an agreement that lowers our wages relative to other municipalities, and our members cannot afford to move backwards.”
Following the strike vote, the union applied to the BC Labour Relations Board to have a mediator appointed in the hopes of resolving the dispute prior to a disruption in services to the community. Dates for mediation have yet to be scheduled.
“We remain hopeful that a resolution can be found at the bargaining table given that we are simply seeking parity with wage increases granted to other municipal workers across the region,” said de Dood.
CUPE 626 members working at the District of Coldwater serve in a range of roles that support the community including front-line services staff, finance and accounting professionals, RCMP clerks, utility and equipment operators, parks workers, planning technicians, mechanics and other tradespeople.