GREATER SUDBURY The union representing 85 Greater Sudbury hydro workers, on strike since June 19th, says the blame for the prolonged strike lies squarely with the Board of Directors of Greater Sudbury Hydro Plus Inc., after the Board rejected a union proposed solution on Monday. The unions proposal would have achieved immediate cost savings in health care benefits, while protecting health care benefits for retired workers and ending the strike.
It is obvious this Board of Directors wants to take away health care benefits for purely ideological reasons, says Dennis Burke, National Representative of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). On August 9th they flatly rejected a proposal we presented in face-to-face meetings last week with hydro management. Our proposal would have ended the strike and achieved the cost savings they were looking for right now, but they rejected it. The Boards demand to take away benefits for future retired workers wouldnt generate any savings for at least 20 to 40 years, says Burke.
This is a back to the future attack on seniors and businesses in this community, says CUPE 4705 president Wyman MacKinnon. Clawing back a provision in our collective agreement for new hires would lead to a divided workplace, and take away real purchasing power from these workers 20 to 40 years down the road, when they have to spend more of their retirement income on prescription drugs and health related costs.
In meetings yesterday, CUPE members reaffirmed their resolve to defend their collective agreement as long as it takes. The union vowed to step up its public information campaign, urging residents to put pressure on local politicians to end the strike. Many councillors sit on the hydro board and the board is appointed by city council.
We negotiated these benefits over years of give and take, says Burke. We decided long ago these benefits were important, and in the trade-off between wage increases and benefits, we emphasized benefits in negotiations over the past fifteen years. Thats how come were in 30th place in the province in terms of wages for hydro workers. I think this Board needs a history lesson.
In the end, its always the politicians who make the decisions, says MacKinnon. But Greater Sudbury residents need to remind them they were not elected to declare war on public servants. People need to remind politicians they can also be un-elected if they arent capable of solving this crisis, especially when they started this dispute in the first place with their concession demands.
For further information, please contact:
President CUPE 4705, 705-560-4705 (o),705-669-8526 (c)
CUPE National Rep., 705-674-7557 (o), 705-669-9463 (c)