Nov 6, 2014
The men and women who work for the city of Castlegar and are members of CUPE 2262 have patiently waited for a resolution to their collective bargaining for many months. They have been forced to take strike action for the first time in 60 years but before doing so, their union tried to appeal to the candidates for city council to end the impasse at the bargaining table. Now they are being criticized by City Administration for participating in the democratic process of pre-election meetings and airing their concerns in public rather than being squeezed into silence by “process”. A process that has left members without a collective agreement for more than a year is not an effective process nor is it respectful to the people who make sure all the public services of the city are well tended.
These workers have the right to fully participate in any municipal forum because their interests are doubly at stake, both as taxpaying residents and as employees of the public. The fact that their questions dominated the Chamber’s meticulously run forum should not be criticized. They should be lauded for fully engaging in the democratic “process”, unlike so much of the electorate who have disengaged from the decision making process in our communities, our province and our country.
Collective bargaining in a time of attacks on workers’ rights is fraught with tensions. Incumbent and hopeful councillors should not be surprised when CUPE members and their families take the very few opportunities available to try and raise their concerns in the open. Often mediator recommendations do not address the biggest issues workers need to have resolved and so it is not unusual for one party or the other to reject them.
The best way to resolve the building tensions and avoid a full blown strike will be for Council to instruct their negotiation team to work earnestly to achieve a fair collective agreement as they have done so many times in the last 60 years of collective bargaining.
Cindy McCallum Miller