After coming within a hair of resolving a bitter, six-month labour dispute, the Township of Black River-Matheson has chosen to prolong it, by insisting on their right to be vindictive once people go back to work, says CUPE 1490.

“I have no words for what I just witnessed at the table with this Township,” said Serge Bouchard, President of CUPE 1490, representing 14 municipal workers. “After several months locked out and then on strike, we finally came to an agreement on the key issues, like the grid, that led to this longstanding fight. Today, as we were finalizing the standard return-to-work protocol – the last step in achieving a tentative agreement – the Township decided they could not agree that all parties would drop legal challenges against each other.”

Return-to-work protocols following labour disputes routinely include clauses ensuring there are no reprisals, or outstanding legal matters for issues and actions that arose during a lockout or strike. “The union offered to drop the challenges we have in various legal arenas in the interest of moving forward together,” said Bouchard. “We have filed an unfair labour practice; we have filed a challenge in court to their unconstitutional trespass orders. And we offered to drop them in exchange for the Employer agreeing they will not pursue reprisals or investigations into members who walked the picket line. To our astonishment, they refused.”

“I think the Mayor and CAO need to be honest with residents tonight,” said Bouchard. “We were within an inch of this being over, and they chose to prolong it.”

By insisting on the ability to punish union members after the dispute is over, the union says that the Township has inserted a “poison pill” into proceedings, making it that much harder to imagine a way forward into harmonious labour relations.

“Let us go back to delivering quality public services,” said Bouchard. “Our members are ready. It’s time for the Township to come to that place as well.”