Day three of White Rock job action: Full-scale strike 'closer than the city thinks'

Day three of White Rock job action: Full-scale strike ‘closer than the city thinks’

WHITE ROCK — A full-scale strike by White Rock CUPE workers could be in the near future after three days of rotating job action.

While the first day of action on May 2 affected city hall workers, the second day, May 8, focused on the city’s public works yard, effectively shutting down garbage collection and roadwork for the day.

The morning of day two, city manager Dan Bottrill said the most significant effect of having the 30 or so workers on strike and shutting down the public works yard was the lack of waste pickup.

According to Bottrill, about a fifth of the city’s residents were likely affected by Thursday’s job action.

CUPE workers also planned to be off the job at the public works yard Friday, for day three of job action.

When asked what was next for the workers, White Rock CUPE president Mike Guraliuk said there were no plans for any more rotating strikes at this time, but hinted that a full-scale strike would likely be the next step.

“It could be in the very near future,” he said. “If the city doesn’t call us back to the table, it’s closer than they realize.

“We’d sooner get back to the bargaining table, but if it takes an all-out strike, then we’re willing to do that.”

CUPE National Representative Rob Limongelli, who is also the negotiator for White Rock workers, said he was disappointed by the city’s lack of response to the job action.

“Unless they come to the bargaining table and are ready to talk, we’re not going to be coming back,” he said. “Obviously the mayor has an agenda and doesn’t think our employees are valued for their work. So we’re withdrawing our services to show how serious we are.”

Additionally, Limongelli said White Rock’s mayor and council needs to show some leadership in the matter, especially with an election coming up later this year.

“The mayor is going to be running for office in a few months and asking for our vote,” he said.  “Well, we’ll remember Wayne’s strike and we’ll be at every meeting he’s at when he’s trying to get elected.

“No councillor has said anything to us either, they’re silent so we assume they support the mayor, but come November, when they’re all running again for re-election, we’ll be reminding the city about this.”

As for strides made by either side in resuming bargaining, Limongelli maintains that CUPE is always willing to get back to the table to find a settlement.

“If the people on the bargaining committee can’t do that, then the city needs to find new people on the committee,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bottrill reiterated that it was the union that left the table and began the job action.

“Although they’ve indicated to the media that they wish to get back to the table, they’ve not proposed any further dates to us,” he said.

Instead Bottrill said the city has taken the lead on trying to get back to the table by getting in touch with the labour relations board, which the city is currently waiting to hear back from.

 â€œSo we don’t mind taking a lead role in trying to get the parties meeting together even though it was the union that left the table,” said Bottrill. “We’re obviously looking to ensure that our mediator is available because I think at this point, we need help between the two parties. I still feel that that’s the case and having a mediator there to help the two parties come together and reach a settlement that meets both parties’ needs is going to be crucial.”

Finally, asked if the city was ready for a full-scale strike, Bottrill simply said, “The city is prepared for whatever’s going to happen, so yes.”

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