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WHISTLER – In an effort to end a three-month labour dispute that has garnered national attention, Whistler’s municipal workers have sent an offer through the labour relations board to the resort municipality of Whistler to begin informal mediated negotiations.

We think it’s important to open up the lines of communication – a mediator can help with that,” says Robin Jones, CUPE national representative and chief negotiator for Whistler’s municipal workers. The resort municipality has yet to agree to the invitation.

The concerns we have raised around affordability have resonated well in Whistler,” says Jones. “It’s something that all workers in Whistler face. We just want the municipality to come to terms with affordability for their workers.”

Over half of Whistler municipal workers cannot afford to live where they work. Despite this, resort municipality of Whistler managers and administrators are currently the highest paid in B.C., with salaries between 60 to 100 per cent more than administrators in similar size communities throughout the province. CUPE 2010 members are seeking a $4,000 living allowance.

Many private employers that operate in Whistler, like the Royal Bank and B.C. Hydro, compensate for the exorbitant cost of living and shortage of labour in Whistler by paying their workers more.

Whistler is Canada’s most expensive municipality. With the average cost of a home at $1.3 million and municipal workers making between $14 and $25 an hour, many are having to quit, creating retention problems for the municipality and hardship for workers and their families.

There is currently a 100 per cent employee turnover rate every two years in Whistler water, wastewater and by-law departments. The union has argued this instability is not only poor management, but a public safety concern.

We have high hopes that mediation could bring an end to this dispute,” says Jones. “There’s no reason for the benefit rollbacks and we think the municipality may have realized that they can’t run from the very real affordability concerns of their workforce.” Pending employer agreement, mediation is expected to happen next week.

CUPE 2010 launched a public campaign around affordability that included newspaper and radio ads, opinion pieces, engaging in public debates and presentations before taskforces and municipal council. The workers have been engaged in work-to rule job action since February and have been without a contract since December 2002.

CUPE 2010 (Canadian Union of Public Employees) represents Whistler by-law enforcement officers, water and wastewater treatment and utilities workers. For more information on the local and their campaign, please visit www.2010.cupe.ca

Robin Jones, CUPE national representative, c: (604)314-6586;
Peter Davidson, CUPE 2010 president, (604)935-8603;
Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications, 604-291-1940.