Ruling on wages prevents strike by Kelowna jail guards

A month-long contract dispute launched by jail guards at the RCMP detachment in Kelowna, B.C., is over after an arbitrator delivers a ruling on wages.

Arbitrator sets salaries; both sides accept

Guards at the Kelowna RCMP detachment issued strike notice in December before eventually agreeing to binding arbitration. (Google Street View)

A contract dispute launched by jail guards at the Kelowna RCMP detachment is over after an outside arbitrator delivered a ruling on wages, ending a job action that could have resulted in a strike.

The 17 guards, who are employed by Commissionairs B.C. and are members of CUPE Local 338, issued strike notice in December in a bid to increase their wages from $16.50 an hour.

In an effort to avoid a strike, the guards agreed to enter binding arbitration with Commissionaires B.C., which resulted in a confidential ruling this week.

"Commissionaires B.C. and CUPE participated in arbitration before Arbitrator Mark Brown last Friday. Yesterday, we received the arbitration award ... which establishes the wage rates," said Julie Powers, VP Operations of Commissionairs B.C. in a statement issued Jan. 16.

"We are very pleased ... and believe the wages ordered, which are largely consistent with the employer's offers in collective bargaining, are fair and reasonable."

'Should be getting much much more'

Harry Nott, CUPE National Representative and lead negotiator in the dispute, said the employer has asked that details of the agreement remain confidential.

He said the guards accept the decision, but added the wage increase does not go far enough.

"It brings them closer [to a living wage], I guess, but it's still not meeting the mark," said Nott.

"We respect the decision. We just believe they should be getting much, much more."

Nott also said the guards are relieved the dispute is over.

"They do care about the prisoners that they care for and they were concerned about the disruption to their lives."

The Kelowna guards oversee prisoners, help with prisoner searches and cell searches, and assist with fingerprinting and delivery of food and medications.

With files from CBC's Brady Strachan.

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.