WARFIELD This small West Kootenay villages three public works employees voted to strike yesterday after talks broke down over the villages refusal to discuss job security.
The employees, who are on call 24 hours a day, have seen their ranks steadily shrink as their work is transferred to private contractors. The employees do everything from cleaning and maintenance of sewer pipes to snow plowing.
Enough is enough, said Kathy Hutton, chief negotiator for CUPE Local 2087. We came to the table to ensure that the jobs that currently exist in public works remain public. Council wont even address this.
On June 1, the village contracted out garbage pickup and yard and garden maintenance to Alpine Disposal, a private company based in Victoria. They made this decision despite a memo council issued earlier describing how well and cost effectively their employees performed garbage pickup. Nor did they consult with Local 2087 or the members that perform this work.
This bleeding has got to stop, Hutton said. One day you wake up and your job is gone and it has nothing to do with your performance and nothing to do with money. Just some councils decision that they want to do some private company a favour even if it costs the public more.
The public works crew is also concerned about the pressure council is placing on the remaining crew to stay silent about health and safety concerns. They feel their work was contracted out as punishment for a report they sent to the Workers Compensation Board. The WCB found the village violated five legal obligations, including failure to provide training and safety equipment.
Mediation has been set for July 21, 2004. Meantime, the crew is launching a campaign asking residents to call on the mayor and council to keep their jobs public and provide them with contract language that protects them from contracting out.
Kathy Hutton, CUPE National Representative, (250) 442-7855;
Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, (778) 229-0258.