Three hundred municipal workers in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) stopped work today in response to the city violating their collective agreement by hiring for a position without notifying CUPE 759, the union that represents CBRM outside workers.

“This isn’t the first time the CBRM has done this,” said Kevin Ivey, CUPE 759 president. “During the summer, they posted tenders to contract out our work without notifying us, a direct violation of the collective agreement, and now they’re doing it again.”

In June, the CBRM posted two tenders for garbage collection, one of which would see fifty jobs given away if a private company was successful in winning the contract. The CBRM did not notify CUPE 759, so they found out their jobs were at risk from the local news. CUPE 759 organized and rallied at city hall in protest, resulting in the council promising they would not contract out their work.

“Our members are frustrated,” said Ivey. “We keep having meetings about the CBRM not following the collective agreement, and we had another one yesterday, but nothing changes.”

Last week, CUPE 759 was made aware that a member of another union was being transferred into one of their available positions without following the process laid out in the collective agreement. CUPE 759 has been contacting CBRM about this issue since Wednesday and finally had a meeting yesterday, but no resolution could be reached.

“We presented a solution,” said Ivey, “but we were told they’d take that into consideration for the future. We heard that in August too. I told our members that it was against the collective agreement to stop work and that they’d be punished, but they don’t care. They want respect, for both themselves and their collective agreement, so they’re on the streets to get it.”

“What we’re seeing is a direct response to the CBRM ignoring the collective agreement when it suits them,” said CUPE Nova Scotia president Nan McFadgen. “This isn’t new. It’s a pattern of disrespect and disregard for the collective agreement. They pick and choose what aspects apply to them, and the workers have said, loud and clear, enough is enough.”