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City workers walked off the job on Feb. 4 to protest a threat to contract out 54 jobs at the arena and recreation centre.

The threat of layoffs sparked the strike, Local 1050 president Dan Weiman said. But our members feel that this is just a plan to privatize the facilities at the expense of the 54 employees who they have just commended for giving excellent service.

About 150 workers, members of Locals 1050(arena) and Local 3176 (swimming pool), joined the half-day work stoppage and protested at city hall earlier in the week.

Mayor Nate Bello handled this situation badly from the start, Weiman said. He and council basically hid behind a prepared statement, thinking they could just carry on with the layoffs.

The statement talked of a “seamless” transition of staff from the city to the Cariboo Regional District. But it admitted to a grey area around successorship or the right of employees to keep their collectively bargained rights if moved to another location.

There is more to the issue than the $54,000 it would take to keep the operations under city management, he added. But this amount would make it possible for all employees to remain working for another year while negotiations continue between the two levels of government.

It makes us wonder if they can't afford $54,000 to keep us working, where they will find the $280,000 it will cost in severance packages to get us to leave, Weiman said.

City council and the CRD reached an agreement at meeting in Williams Lake today to postpone the plan for one year.