The bargaining climate continues to deteriorate in the township of Harrington, Quebec, in the Laurentians, where seven outside and inside workers are trying to renew their collective agreement.
Apart from troubled negotiations, the union team also has to deal with the instability of the township’s general management. Over the past ten years, seven general managers have followed in succession, and the current general manager is on sick leave for an indefinite period.
The employer and the union have been in negotiations since September 10, 2020. With the adoption of an intensive mediation process, the talks were moving along. However, the departure of the general manager and her replacement by the mayor derailed the possibility of quickly reaching a satisfactory agreement.
During the most recent mediation session, the mayor proposed making changes to the municipality’s group insurance plan. However, that request had not been part of the negotiations from the start and the plan had never been contested by the municipal council.
In addition, on several occasions, the mayor and the municipal council tried to unilaterally modify the collective agreement. A complaint was made under the Labour Code, but the township backed off before it was filed.
In addition, the union is criticizing the township for resorting to excessive outsourcing despite insignificant savings.
“This is the case with snow removal, part of which was being performed by the union members when the mayor and his advisers assumed their mandate. But last winter, none of the weekend snow removal from roads or municipal parking lots was carried out by the outside workers,” said Stéphane Paré, CUPE union representative.
Another point of contention for the employees is the addition of surveillance cameras inside the municipal garage. Although the employer claims that their intention is to prevent municipal building offenses and the theft of fuel, the cameras cover only the interior and not the exterior where there is also much to protect. The union sees this as a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Civil Code and privacy.
The next few months could be tense in Harrington as the union intends to use the fall municipal elections as an opportunity to alert the populace.
“We will make our voices heard during the election campaign. We will invite all the mayoral candidates to discuss these issues with us. This municipal council does not respect or listen to the workers who are residents of the municipality and who have provided loyal service for years,” concluded Mr. Paré.