WHITE ROCK â€” The City by the Sea could be facing its first city worker strike as soon as this weekend following an essential services meeting between the union and the city.
The meeting was held in order to agree on what services within the city would be deemed essential and therefore unaffected by any strike action. Both sides agreed the only duties that should fall into that category would be fire and RCMP support services. Everything else, such as waste removal, would be impacted by a strike.
â€œWe canâ€™t say thatâ€™s essential,â€ said Mayor Wayne Baldwin, noting the issue was top of mind for many at the city. â€œWeâ€™re concerned about it for a number of reasons â€“ we donâ€™t want to see the level of services to our residents, the taxpayers, disrupted but we also donâ€™t want to see our employees go out and take job action.â€
If the unionized city workers, all part of CUPE 402-01, go on strike Baldwin said they too would be adversely affected.
â€œIn my opinion itâ€™s not necessary because every week that theyâ€™re off, theyâ€™re going to lose two per cent of their pay,â€ he said. â€œSo thereâ€™s nothing in my mind thatâ€™s so important that that has to be given up. It also affects people in their last couple of years of service, it affects their pension.â€
CUPE 402-01 President Mike Guraliuk said they were as close as ever to beginning job action.
â€œWe are waiting for a report from the labour board and hopefully and then thereâ€™s a 48-hour cooling off period,â€ he said Tuesday. â€œAfter that weâ€™ll be in a position to serve 72-hour strike notice, and we will.â€
At issue are benefits, vacations, protection of hours and injury-related clauses. CUPE is also looking for benefits for casual and part-time workers, which Guraliuk said are offered in about half of the other municipalities in B.C.
Guraliuk added there were no further meetings set up with the city at this time, but â€œwe put it out there, weâ€™re very open to meet with the city anytime any place, so weâ€™ll see.â€
Workers voted 94 per cent in favour of striking back in February and have been bargaining since last June.
Baldwin said the city was looking to continue negotiations but noted they also wouldnâ€™t agree to just anything.
â€œThereâ€™s still time for negotiations but we have to ensure that weâ€™re looking after the best interests of the taxpayers with respect by what we give by way of a settlement because what we do will go on for many, many years,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re not going to just agree to something for the sake of agreeing to it. We are concerned as weâ€™ve never had a strike here and we donâ€™t want to see it happen but Iâ€™m not sure what CUPEâ€™s goals are in this respect. I just donâ€™t see that theyâ€™re in the end going to win by that.
â€œWe hope in the end that clearer heads will prevail and weâ€™ll come to an agreement.â€