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After 10 months of intense negotiations that pushed them to the verge of a strike, Woodstock, Ontario, municipal workers have signed a new contract with the town.

The workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 719, were able to minimize a town proposal to eliminate full-time positions as employees retired. The town and union signed the three-year agreement September 30, 1998.

“Our members are happy that Woodstock’s good jobs and public services are a bit more secure,” said local president Ralph McBride. “But make no mistake 007700650020made real sacrifices this round. Anyone who thinks we’re getting rich here is dead wrong,” he added.

Job security was a key issue for the town workers. The workers accepted a wage freeze in first year of the agreement, a one-time lump sum payment in the second year, and two 1.5 per cent increases in the contract’s final year. Members also agreed to some scheduling and classification changes for positions at the town Civic Centre as the workers there retire.

“We were able to guarantee that the public works and fire jobs would continue to be filled even if employees retire,” says McBride. “That’s a big win when you look at what the town originally wanted to force on us. We had to be a bit more flexible with the civic centre because it’s a new venture that’s already in financial trouble. It was the best we could do under extremely tough circumstances,” he explained.

At a town council meeting last week, several councillors were outspoken about the workers enjoying too many f0072inge benefits,’ angering the CUPE members who had worked hard to reach an agreement and avoid a strike.

“Our three per cent wage increase is well below the average of six per cent for municipal workers in the province,” said McBride. “And several town officials get long-service pay, clothing allowances and car allowances. One of the councillors that spoke against us gets similar allowances through his collective agreement at the hospital. I hope the town can follow our lead in putting these negotiations behind us and getting on with our jobs,” concluded McBride.