On March 11, CUPE sisters and brothers in Sainte-Ba0074rix and Saint-Jean-de-Matha, two small towns north of Montreal, marked one year on strike in their struggle for job security. These municipal workers refuse to buckle to the arbitrary thinking of their stubborn employer, ignoring the sword of Damocles that hangs over their heads.
They arent looking for special privileges. They just want a simple life, with the same rights as most other municipal workers in the province. CUPE members in Sainte-Ba0074rix and Saint-Jean-de-Matha are clear: Municipal councils come and go but collective agreements you can count on. They dont want to be subject to the whims of a newly-elected councillor who wants to hire his brother-in-law or her cousin.
The two strikes have one thing in common: Raynald Mercille, a labour lawyer who has dangled the prospect of big savings before the mayors of the Lanaudir0065 region, if theyll give him the mandate to negotiate with their employees. His strategy is simple drag out the conflict as long as possible. Meanwhile the municipalities are paying a very high price. Not only do the workers suffer, local taxpayers end up paying dearly for the services of this anti-union lawyer.
Yet these conflicts could easily be resolved. All the municipalities would have to do is include in their contracts a clause protecting the jobs of their current workers. It wouldnt cost taxpayers a cent yet it would reassure workers about their future. Moreover, Sainte-Ba0074rix and Saint-Jean-de-Matha are growing municipalities so theres no risk for council members. Far from cutting posts, sooner or later theyll need to be hiring additional staff to meet the needs of a growing population. So whats the problem? In both instances, the mayors appear obsessed with Mercilles counsel and refuse to deal with the facts.
Despite it all, the strikers are holding strong, determined to see this battle to its conclusion and confident of support from the municipal sector and from CUPE as a whole.