Snow clearing is an essential service Prince George city workers will still have to perform even if they go on strike Saturday as planned, B.C.'s Labour Relations Board (LRB) has ruled.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local first served strike notice on Monday, after several days of negotiations failed to arrive at a list of essential services.

But the LRB has ruled that, since the essential services had yet to be decided at the time of the notice, it was invalid and the earliest workers can now go on strike is Saturday at 8 a.m. PT.

The LRB also ruled essential services protected from the strike will include include snow clearing, solid waste spill response and water treatment.

Unions will also have to give 72-hour notice should they decide to picket the Civic Centre or city arenas, and picketing cannot interfere with police or fire services.

The city has the power to call employees back to work in the case of an emergency. 

Mediated talks broke down

The strike notice followed the breakdown of mediated talks between the city and its unions over the weekend.

CUPE local president Gary Campbell says the decision to take job action was made because the city has not been responding to union concerns.

"We're to the point now where we're saying 'Hey, look it, you have to pay attention to us, you have to be serious when you come to the table, and sit down and actually bargain with us'," said Campbell.

Meanwhile, city administration sent out a press release Tuesday evening, claiming to "set the record straight."

It says the city is willing to continue bargaining and it points out there have been several occasions where the union has not been willing to meet.

The city says it referred a decision on essential services to the Labour Relations Board because so little progress was made during talks with the union.