Front-line workers for the City of Sarnia have given their union an overwhelming strike mandate in votes held over the past week. The workers, who are represented by CUPE Locals 153, 2713 and 3690 work for the City in public works, parks and recreation and as “inside” workers, respectively. Their combined average strike vote was 97 per cent in favour of taking strike action if necessary.

“Our goal in these negotiations is to get a fair deal for our members and keep important services running,” said Jorge Paiva, President of CUPE 2713, which represents parks and recreation workers. “When the pandemic hit, our members were flexible, they stepped up and took on new jobs to help the city deal with the situation, we want to continue to provide these important services for the people of Sarnia.”

Combined, these three CUPE locals represent 225 municipal workers who deliver services to the residents of Sarnia. All three of their collective agreements expired on December 31, 2020.

“These votes don’t mean that there is going to be a work stoppage,” said Jim Bigras, President of CUPE 153, which represents workers in the public works department. “But with some of the stuff the City is proposing, we felt we needed to update our members to see what they had to say. Their message was clear, if taking job action is what it will take to get a fair deal, then we can make that decision. We’ll go back in negotiations knowing that we have that option if it is necessary.”

Negotiations are ongoing for all three locals. On Monday each local filed for conciliation, meaning that negotiations will continue with the assistance of a provincially appointed conciliator who will work with both sides to try and find common ground.

“Talks haven’t been moving as quickly as we might like, but we are encouraged by the support that our members have given us,” said Doug Downie, president of CUPE 3690, which represents Sarnia’s inside workers. “With this mandate from our members, and the help of the conciliator we hope to get negotiations moving toward a fair deal.”