Kelowna jail guards' strike attempt quashed by Labour Relations Board

Employer says union failed to give strike notice properly and violated essential services provisions.

Guards at RCMP detachment attempted to begin strike Friday morning

The union representing 17 guards says wages continue to be the main sticking point. (Google Street View)

Jail guards at the RCMP detachment in Kelowna served strike notice Monday and were prepared to walk off the job as early as Friday morning.

However, the guards' union and employer said Thursday the Labour Relations Board has ruled that strike notice did not meet legal requirements.

The 17 guards are employees of Commissionaires B.C. and members of Local 338 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

They intended to use the Monday notice to get themselves into a legal strike position by Thursday afternoon, but a CUPE representative says job action would not begin until Friday at 6 a.m. PT.

"There's only one item left on the table and that is wages," said Harry Nott, lead union negotiator.

"These people basically agreed to a contract that is status quo. They get very little benefits, no sick time, they get no pension and they're paid $16.50 an hour for the job they're doing."

"Not only is it stressful, it's a dangerous job," he said.

'Not in the best interest of any party'

Julie Powers, vice-president of operations for Commissionaires B.C., said in a statement that the union has rejected three offers that included wage increases.

"It's unfortunate the union has chosen this course of action," she said.

"We continue to strongly believe that strike action is not in the best interest of any party involved in this matter: our employees, the union, our client, or Commissionaires B.C."

The guards voted to join CUPE earlier this year and the union said talks on a collective agreement started in late spring.

Strike notice rules followed?

On Thursday morning, the Commissionaires filed an application with the Labour Relations Board to have strike notice declared invalid. The board ruled in its favour.

The union said the employer's basis for that application was that the union had given the notice via email instead of a fax.

"We are disappointed that the employer continues to spend money on legal fees rather than put those resources towards a living wage for their employees," Nott said in a release.

But that explanation is an attempt to "trivialize" the matter, Powers responded.

"There are legal requirements established by legislation and the Labour Relations Board which must be followed by both parties in a labour dispute before a strike or lockout can legally occur," she said in a release. 

"Commissionaires filed our application because the Union failed to meet those requirements, in multiple ways, including failing to comply with the Essential Services Order in place."

"Understandably, CUPE feels embarrassed in front of its members, resulting in its chosen response."

The Labour Relations Board did not return CBC's requests for comment.

Nott said the union would refile its strike notice.

With files from Liam Britten and CBC's Daybreak South.