CUPE 1115 has requested a “no-board” report from the Ministry of Labour, which will kick off a 17-day countdown until the union or the City of Welland can initiate a legal strike or lockout. The union is citing the need for improvements to layoff protection and city proposed reduction to the short-term disability plan as the major barriers toward a deal at this point.

“This is a situation we thought we could avoid by coming to the table with fairly modest proposals in this round of bargaining,” said Steve Leavitt, spokesperson for CUPE 1115. “But the city is continuing its pattern of disrespect to frontline city workers. They laid off dozens of workers at the beginning of the pandemic, when most other municipalities kept staff employed to help with public safety and social distancing measures. Now they are seeking reductions to workers’ short term disability plan at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising and the province has just gone into full lockdown, but the vast majority of our members are going into the workplace. The CAO is saying that the city is a compassionate employer, but we haven’t seen evidence of this during COVID-19 or during these negotiations.”

The union, which represents 78 inside workers for the City of Welland, has been meeting with the city’s negotiating team and provincial conciliator since March 10. The union says the decision to file the no-board was made after negotiations stopped being productive, but they still believe a deal can be reached at the table.

“The last time we met with the city we were told to clear our schedules so we could work into the night, but instead they ended discussions early,” Leavitt explained. “We made the decision to file the no-board after that, because we don’t believe there is any other way to get these negotiations moving toward a deal.”

While the no-board report has been requested today the 17-day countdown will not begin until the report is issued by the Ministry of Labour, something that usually takes two or three days. This means the legal strike or lockout date will likely fall in the last week of April. The next meeting between the two sides is scheduled for April 19.

“Our goal is still to negotiate a fair deal for our members, and we believe that can still be achieved without a labour disruption,” Leavitt said. “We are talking about protecting workers from unnecessary layoffs and avoiding major reductions to a short-term disability plan. These would be uncontroversial negotiating positions at the best of times, but in the middle of a pandemic I am in disbelief that the city is still fighting us on these issues.”