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Black River Matheson, Ont. – Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1490, representing workers at the Township of Black River-Matheson, is warning that management is threatening a lockout over hours-of-work demands the union calls unfair and unreasonable.

“The employer wants to change the shifts of eight public works employees so that four junior people in that department never have a weekend off with their families – ever. Their shifts would move to Sunday-Wednesday, and they’d receive no premium for sacrificing that Sunday, every single week of the year,” said Jennifer Barnett, CUPE National Representative and negotiator on behalf of Local 1490. “That’s not the norm in the municipal sector – that’s most unusual, and really unfair.”

Barnett explained that in most municipal collective agreements, where the sacrifice is made to routinely give up family time, or religious and spiritual time on a weekend, a shift premium is the norm. “In our community the weekend still means something – it’s when people attend their children’s extracurricular activities, spend time with family, are active in their community. Our members don’t mind coming into work on weekends when necessary – they have always been happy to do that. The trade-off for that flexibility is a shift premium. It is particularly reasonable given how small those costs are to the employer,” she said.

The local is also raising concerns about road safety, given the new shifts the employer wants. It takes eight employees to clear the roads in one shift, from one end of the township to the other, following a winter storm. “Under the conditions the employer is demanding, only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays would we have eight employees on shift,” said Barnett. “Last I checked, the weather doesn’t operate that way. If we had a storm on any other day, the employer would have to decide to not clear the roads fully, or to call in extra people on overtime. This completely negates the argument they are making now for eliminating shift premiums.”

The Township has advised the union that a lockout is likely if the union does not agree to the hours-of-work demands. The union is asking the employer to come back to the table and negotiate toward settlement. “In each of the last three rounds of bargaining, the union has made concessions on hours of work – the employer has maximum flexibility now,” said Barnett. “They have the ability to schedule hours any time between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., five days a week. Given that, it would be absurd to lock us out over further demands for flexibility. Come back to the table and talk to us instead.”

CUPE Local 1490 represents 17 full time employees in Black River-Matheson, and five summer students.

For more information:

Jennifer Barnett, CUPE national representative, (705) 845-9075
Andrea Addario, CUPE communications, (416) 738-4329