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HOUSTONCUPE 2086 members hope to regain respect at work and adherence to an arbitrator’s ruling with a change of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) at the District of Houston. Labour relations had been poisoned over the past fifteen months and the local had involved the Labour Relations Board to try to reach a settlement. On August 13, arbitrator Irene Holden ruled that the employer violated the collective agreement by failing to provide a “work environment free from harassment” and called for the parties to jointly develop a harassment policy no later than October 31, 2008.

Despite numerous attempts by the local and the arbitrator’s ruling, CAO Shawn Wells refused to participate in labour management meetings.

Barry O’Neill met with councillors and the mayor on November 6. O’Neill requested the meeting and explains, “We need to re-establish a respectful work environment where all are valued and everyone is dedicated to working in the best interests of Houston.”

On November 12, a Houston Today editorial concurred, “Seven pending arbitrations against the district is unthinkable.” The paper agreed with O’Neill, “You have to do what the arbitrator tells you to do.”

On November 15, 43 per cent of eligible voters turned out to vote in the Houston municipal election. Mayor Sharon Smith was defeated and Bill Holmberg became Houston’s new mayor. All six councillors had been acclaimed.

“Barry’s visit informed concerned citizens about how those responsible with running this small community were doing,” says CUPE representative Kevin McConnachie. “This was instrumental in the municipal elections by assisting a community coalition in their last minute surge to let people know what was going on.”

McConnachie adds, “We’re hopeful that with a change at City Hall an opportunity exists to foster positive labor relations.”

CUPE 2086 members are both inside and outside workers that keep the District of Houston running smoothly – from clerical work in the district office, to driving truck, operating the leisure centre, and clearing snow to keep streets safe.