At a general meeting, Sherbrooke’s blue-collar workers voted unanimously against the City’s most recent offer. While the workers were pleased with many aspects of their employer’s proposal, they also pointed out some serious shortcomings.
For instance, the City wanted to sign a seven-year contract, deemed to be far too long by blue-collar workers, considering the current context of aggressive and anti-union human resources policies. Moreover, the city refused to grant an occupational health and safety clause, as it did for unionized workers at Hydro-Sherbrooke.
“During negotiations, we managed to make headway on several major issues, which would normally result in an agreement. But it’s a real shame because the City still seems to have a problem with us being unionized and is constantly criticizing our members for every little yes or no. It hardly makes us want to sign a long-term agreement. Furthermore, the City refuses to give us the proper tools to represent and defend our members on health and safety issues. Under these conditions, there’s no way,”said Rénald Dubé, president of CUPE Local 2729.
“The recent debate on garbage collection confirmed Sherbrooke’s blue-collar workers are able to deliver high-quality, affordable public services across the community. The City can and must make concessions in order to reach a new deal sometime soon”added Dubé.
The City and union have met with a conciliator three times since September 24. Last spring the blue-collar workers voted 98 per cent in favour of holding a strike, if necessary. They have been without a labour contract since December 31, 2007.
Sherbrooke’s 400 blue-collar workers are members of the CUPE Local 2729. They work in the public service sector maintaining roads and roadside services, aqueduct and sewer systems, recreational centres, parks, garbage collection, eco-centres and home cleaning services. They include mechanics, engineers, arboriculturalists, horticulturalists, etc.
CUPE represents approximately 70 per cent of all municipal employees in Quebec and is also active in ten other sectors, including health and social services, education, public transportation, airlines, energy, Quebec crown corporations, public agencies, and communications. With close to 105,000 members in Quebec, CUPE is the largest FTQ affiliate.