Halifax – CUPE Water and Wastewater workers locals 227 and 1431 today said they’ll hold not just management but also Mayor Mike Savage and members of Council accountable for last night’s breakdown in negotiations.

“CUPE negotiators tabled a reasonable offer that meant tremendous sacrifices on the part of our members,” CUPE 1431 President Heather Corkum said. “Our new offer would have saved ratepayers $1.8 million in contributions, but senior managers on the employer’s negotiation team rejected it to protect their own pensions.”

One of the challenges of these negotiations is that CUPE is bargaining for its members’ pension plan, but that pension plan is shared by the high paid managers who are negotiating on behalf of Halifax Water. That puts those managers in a conflict of interest. “The employer representative actually said to us that they can’t disproportionately affect one group more than the other,” CUPE 227 President Dave Dort said.

“They’re protecting managers who earn more than $141,000 per year at the expense of water and wastewater services, ratepayers, and our members.” CUPE pension specialist Kevin Skerrett said the union’s offer would have seen workers contribute more funds to the pension plan to reduce the impact of benefit cuts. As well, workers would accept modest reductions in pension benefits once they retire.

“This was a good deal for Halifax Water and for ratepayers,” Skerrett said. “For them to reject this and now demand more sacrifices flies in the face of good management and good labour relations.”

Dort said the union would take the fight to City Hall. “Four of the seven Halifax Water Board members are on City Council – including Mayor Mike Savage,” he said. “We’re a year away from a municipal election, and we will call on the thousands of unionized workers in the Halifax Regional Municipality to ensure this mismanagement is remembered and acted on.”

“Mike Savage doesn’t have to worry about his pensions, because he gets two of them,” CUPE Nova Scotia President Danny Cavanagh said. “But he won’t be getting an easy ride when he’s looking for re-election.”

“Our members are strong, and we’ll be out on the picket line as long as it takes to get a fair deal,” Cavanagh said.