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COMMENT: Mayor speaks to labour dispute

I’d like to thank the residents of Castlegar for your patience and understanding during the labour strike by our unionized CUPE city employees.

We are now in snow season and our management staff are working around the clock to keep the roads clear and safe. We appreciate that residents and businesses are helping to keep adjacent sidewalks clear for public safety.

All City facilities remain open as we endeavor to provide prompt service to residents, businesses and visitors alike.

We value all of our employees and I regret that the CUPE local union leadership has directed their members to strike action.

I wish to be clear that I and Council have directed management in the on-going labour dispute. Currently the union leadership has taken their members – and our employees – out on strike over two issues:

1. Job Security – Council does not see that our city workers have any real cause for concern in this area. A job at this City is one of the most secure jobs in the region. Besides, the City has already allayed this Union concern in a guarantee read into the bargaining record by the mediator.

2. Grievance Handling – A reasonable limit of ten hours a month for taxpayer-paid Union grievance investigation, which is in line with limits set in neighbouring municipalities. Council is not restricting grievance investigation; just ensuring any additional time is paid for by the Union. Our hope is that this will move the union leadership to more expeditiously deal with grievances and issues that are of real concern to their members rather than continuing the current practice of delaying and eventually withdrawing most grievances.

Council and I remain committed to seeing these two issues through. The union leadership should examine their motives again for leading City staff out on this strike. As a CUPE member for almost thirty years, I know all about solidarity and justice. I understand the concerns around job security and time to investigate grievances; however, I also realize when a process is being abused.

If I thought job security was at risk at the City of Castlegar, I’d be the first to address it. During the major industry tax revolt in 2010, we ensured no layoffs occurred despite the overnight loss of over forty percent of our City’s tax budget. And yes, in over a year and a half of bargaining, Council has carefully and repeatedly considered all of the Union bargaining committee’s ­ fty plus demands. Council has compromised and given generously in many areas. We are proud to say our employees are some of the best compensated in the region.

Council and I are proud of our community and appreciate the mandate we have received in this most recent election to hold the line and continue to govern this City transparently, accountably, and responsibly.

This current impasse will ultimately be resolved. In the meantime, we are doing our utmost to continue to provide you with the civic services we all rely on.

Sincerely,

Lawrence D. Chernoff

Mayor