Located 100km north of Edmonton, the County of Westlock served layoff notices to its two mechanics, members of CUPE 3007, in June 1998. One of the men, Wally Singleton, had 32 years experience and would have qualified for a full pension in October. The local grieved but the Council remained firm.
Westlock is a small rural community and as the saying goes, “news travels fast”. When local residents learned of the move, a meeting was called and more than 350 attended to grill Council members. So stormy was the meeting that the reeve of twenty years and his allies on council had to make a hasty retreat through a side door. But the story doesn’t end there.
In October’s municipal elections, of the four councillors who supported the layoffs, one did not run, one was elected and two were defeated. Most important, Wally Singleton was elected reeve!
In November, the decision to contract out maintenance was reversed and the positions restored with increased pay. In December, the negotiating committee for the local tabled its demands. But this time management wasn’t represented by a lawyer. It was the reeve and former shop steward that faced the local.
In January, a new agreement was signed, incorporating virtually every proposal the union had put on the table. Morale in the workplace has never been higher.
In CUPE we talk a lot about how we get to “elect our bosses.” Wally has reminded us that we not only get to elect them, we can fire them as well!