Municipality of Highland East officesMunicipal workers at the Municipality of Highlands East in central Ontario are closer to a strike after conciliation talks failed to reach an agreement. CUPE 4416 filed a request for a “no board” report, which could put the workers in a legal strike position by early July.

CUPE 4416 represents 30 members at the Municipality of Highlands East who work to maintain roads, provide clean water, run parks and recreation facilities, manage the landfill and keep administrative operations running.

“We have tried to reach an agreement with the employer, but unfortunately, they are still not willing to move away from unfair proposals and haven’t committed to addressing the serious concerns that we have with harassment and violence in the workplace,” said CUPE 4416 President Rick Huffman. “Our local is actively preparing for a strike, but we are hopeful that the employer will return to the table to negotiate a deal for members that is fair and equitable.”

The employer has made unfair demands that would give them the ability to change workers’ hours and days of work with minimal notice.

“This is an unfair proposal that will make it impossible for our members to make plans outside of work,” said Huffman. “Imagine not knowing if you were going to be called in to forced to work on Saturday, week after week, and not being able to make plans for your kids’ hockey trip, dance recital or birthday party?”

Another issue is the continued incidences of workplace harassment and violence  directed towards workers from management. A recent independent investigation found multiple incidences of harassment and even violence by a manager to be true, but the municipality has done nothing to prevent further incidences. Harassment in the workplace has continued, and the municipality has refused to investigate new allegations. Municipal councillors have been informed and asked by the union to intervene but have not responded to multiple letters requesting they do so.

“The continued harassment in the workplace from management towards our members is unacceptable, and needs to end,” said Huffman. “We need a commitment from the employer to ending workplace harassment and live up to their obligation to provide a safe workplace, and to negotiate a fair deal to avoid a strike.”