At a meeting held on November 9, 2023, CUPE 160 members representing outside workers in the city of Prince albert, Saskatchewan voted 80% in favour of job action, up to and including a full withdrawal of services.
“We want to emphasize that we are not yet in a legal strike position. There are several steps we need to undertake before any job action can occur – including declaring impasse, mandatory conciliation, and a formal essential service agreement,” said Leslie Mourot Bartley, president of CUPE 160. “We hope that this vote will send a clear message to the city that we can reach a fair collective agreement that works for both parties without job action.”
CUPE 160 members have been without a contract since December 2021. The city is pushing for several concessions such as a reduction in sick days, changes to overtime call back, and hours of work for some classifications. They have also not moved on several reasonable union proposals – like providing a coffee pot, fridge, and microwave in breakrooms and including a provision for domestic violence leave.
“The employer keeps pointing to other wage offers across the province saying that their offer is better, but they ignore the fact that the agreements they are pointing to have significant improvements beyond wages, including expanding health coverage, vacation improvements, new wage grids, increases to premiums, and other language improvements. Several large cities are currently in bargaining, including Saskatoon, Weyburn, and Meadow Lake,” added Mourot Bartley.
“Collective bargaining is a process that only works when both sides are willing to give up a little to reach a settlement. Our bargaining team is willing to look at compromises that work for both parties, but that can only happen with meaningful movement from the employer,” said Mourot Bartley.
CUPE 160 represents workers at the water treatment plant, waste water treatment plant, sanitation department, parks and recreation, roadways, rink operation staff, janitors at all city facilities, fleet mechanics, airport maintenance workers, and cemetery staff.
While some of these services may be deemed essential under the Saskatchewan Employment Act, there is currently no essential service agreement in place. If both parties cannot agree on how many positions are deemed essential, the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board will step in to make a ruling.