UPDATED: City CFO responds to CUPE 339 strike vote
A handful of newly unionized employees at the Nelson Youth Centre continue to be the major stumbling block to formulate an agreement between the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 339 and City of Nelson.
Colin McClure, Chief Financial Officer for the City of Nelson said in a media release Thursday the main holdup is the rights the youth centre employees will have as a group of employees.
“The City believes the Union should follow through on its commitment to these employees at the time of the vote, which indicated that they would be treated as a sub-local, like the library,” McClure said.
“The Union now insists that they be imbedded in the main agreement.”
CUPE workers have been without a contract since the start of 2016.
Bargaining was proceeding when Nelson Youth Centre employees decided to unionize, joining CUPE in July of this year.
McClure said the Nelson Youth Centre employees should bargain like library workers, who are represented by CUPE, but vote independently from the 80 city employees who form the main collective agreement.
“The Youth Centre employees were promised this same right,” McClure said.
McClure said at the time of the NYC unionization, CUPE 339 president Mike Stefiuk said in a newspaper story, “the youth centre staff will be a sub-local of Local 339, similar to the Nelson Public Library whose employees have their own separate contract with the city.”
“The City has not disagreed with whether the Youth Centre staff should be unionized, but our stance is that it should be a standalone agreement, as that is what the Youth Centre staff understood it would be when they voted,” McClure said.
McLure said both sides have worked long and hard during the past year and are close to an agreement.
He also understands the union’s right to take a strike vote.
McLure said the City is willing and available to continue negotiations with CUPE in the hope of resolving the outstanding issues without any job action.
No new bargaining dates have been scheduled.
Nelson CUPE workers take strike vote
In a media release Wednesday, Canadian Union of Public Employees National Rep Louise Oetting said members of CUPE 339 have voted overwhelmingly in favour of job action at both the City of Nelson and the Nelson Youth Centre.
Talks recently broke off after two sides were unable to negotiate a fair settlement during recent bargaining.
The local which represents 85 employees from locations held the strike vote Monday with a majority of the membership attending to cast a ballot.
The vote was 95 percent voted in favour of a strike.
“No one ever wants to go down this road, especially at this time of year,” said CUPE 399 president Mike Stefiuk.
“We are in a bit of a unique situation here because we feel bargaining is nearly settled, however we have been unable to reach an agreement with the City when it comes to terms for the Youth Centre.”
The release said Youth Centre employees applied to unionize on July 8 of this year and were varied into the bargaining unit comprised of City of Nelson employees.
As a result, they are now covered by the existing CUPE Local 339 collective agreement.
“Our focus in this round of bargaining has been a modest wage increase and benefit improvements for our lowest paid members and trying to ensure they have stable employment,” Stefiuk explained.
“However, the City wants to keep discussing whether or not staff at the Youth Centre want to be unionized, which is not something that is properly addressed through collective bargaining.”
CUPE said since the collective agreement expired on December 31, 2015, the parties have returned to the table several times over terms for the Youth Centre, with the two parties attempting to reach a mediated deal.
However, the mediator was unable to bring the two parties to a satisfactory conclusion.
The releaser said members of CUPE 339 represent municipal employees who work for the City of Nelson and provide a wide range of services to the city’s residents and businesses.
The local also represents staff who work at the Nelson Youth Centre providing support services including overseeing the skateboard park and the Nelson campground, employment counselling, community and school outreach programs as well as a number of other programs supporting Nelson and the community.