Labour talks fruitless in White Rock city worker strike

Labour talks fruitless in White Rock city worker strike

WHITE ROCK — After a day of mediated talks on Thursday, striking CUPE civic workers and city management are no closer to ending the current labour dispute.

According to CUPE 402-01 President Mike Guraliuk, union members are frustrated that the city arrived at the bargaining table with no new proposals and were not prepared to discuss a package presented by the union. The union’s proposal was similar to that of the city’s firefighters.

“The city negotiators claimed that they didn’t even have enough information about their own plan with the firefighters to discuss this with us today,” said Guraliuk in a release following the Thursday meeting.

“Given that long-term disability has been a key issue in this dispute, we would expect that the employer would come to the table ready to discuss options.”

Guraliuk went on to suggest that city management, and by extension city council, were not acknowledging the current job action with sincerity.  

“White Rock citizens need to ask our mayor and council why their bargaining representatives were not prepared and ready to seriously work at getting a settlement,” he said. “It seems that they are not taking the disruption of services for residents and businesses seriously at all.”

City manager Dan Bottrill said Guraliuk’s comments were unfortunate, but noted that the city needed time to review the union’s proposal.

"On April 27 we tabled our proposal so we were thinking they were coming back after having reviewed that with their membership but they decided to table their own proposal, which is fine," said Bottrill. "So there were some discussions and my understanding is that the city is now taking that proposal and doing its own due diligence with respect to that and the information contained in there."

Asked about further talks, Bottrill said they "still have some work to do with respect with their proposals, once we do that we hope to come back with some dates that work with both the union and a mediator."

Bottrill also wanted to note that despite the union claiming otherwise, the city’s firefighters administer their own long-term disability plan, which had been used as a point of reference by the CUPE 402-01.

"I know that’s something that seems to be something with a difference of opinion on the fact," he said. "I just wanted to clarify that. We’ve made that known many times."

The full-scale strike began May 12 after three days of rotating strikes the weeks prior. All municipal buildings, such as recreation and leisure centres have been shut down by the city in lieu of the strike, save for city hall. Other services affected include garbage and recycling pick up, which are not taking place, and roadwork and park maintenance. Parking and bylaw enforcement will continue to operate under non-union employees.

Bottrill said city hall has been receiving calls about the job action.

"We’ve had a few phone calls from people that are wanting to know how long this is going to last," he said. "People at this point are having to deal with that and we apologize for that inconvenience and disruption of service but there hasn’t been an overwhelming number of phone calls at this point and that’s probably because people are getting better at dealing with waste management."

CUPE 402-01 represents more than 100 White Rock city workers that have been without contract since December 2011. At issue is long-term disability, and conditions of employment for part-time and casual workers.

For more information on the city services affected, go to whiterockcity.ca.

cpoon@thenownewspaper.com