Winnipeg enters whirlwind of labour negotiations
Most city workers entered 2017 without a collective bargaining agreement as deals expired over holidays
More than 80 per cent of the City of Winnipeg's unionized workforce entered the new year without a collective bargaining agreement, as labour deals covering most city employees expired over the winter holidays.
Winnipeg's contracts with its police officers, firefighters, professional and general employees all expired before Christmas, paving the way for a busy schedule of negotiations in early 2017 — and an uncertain impact on the city's budget after all the talks wind up.
The collective bargaining agreements between the city and the Winnipeg Police Association, the Winnipeg Police Senior Officers' Association, the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 had all expired by Christmas Eve.
Those unions joined the Winnipeg Association of Public Service Officers, which has not had a contract in place with the city since October 2015.
Together, these five unions account for 8,747 of the city's 10,534 unionized employees, or 83 per cent of the city's unionized workforce.
While Winnipeg's spending plans for 2017 include contingencies for reaching agreements with the unions, Mayor Brian Bowman said the city is trying to minimize the financial impact.
"Obviously, the negotiations will have to conclude before we know the answer to that," the mayor said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
"They're all negotiated independently, in isolation with each respective bargaining unit, but in terms of our approach to labour relations, we're creating much more focus on the overall costs and the overall interests of taxpayers as a whole when we go into each of these collective agreements."
City officials declined an interview request from CBC News. In a statement, city spokesman David Driedger said talks between the city and the Winnipeg Association of Public Service Officers — whose members include skilled professionals and middle managers — have broken down. Contract arbitration has been scheduled for April, Driedger said.
Talks between the city and two unions which don't have the power to strike — the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Police Association — got underway in 2016.
Three bargaining sessions with the UFFW took place last year and more talks are expected, president Alex Forrest said.
"It's very tough negotiating and it could be a few months," Forrest said via text message. "But it has been very respectful and professional. We are both trying to reach a fair and reasonable deal."
The city and the Winnipeg Police Association, meanwhile, engaged in the first of three bargaining sessions in November, city spokesman Driedger said. Two more are scheduled for this year.
Negotiations between the city and the Winnipeg Police Senior Officers' Association are on hold until the WPA talks conclude, Driedger said.
Talks between the city and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500, which represents the lion's share of city workers, have yet to commence.
"CUPE has typically received some of the lowest increases over the last few rounds of bargaining," CUPE 500 president Gord Delbridge said in a telephone interview.
He said he nonetheless remains hopeful about the prospects of a fair deal for his members.
Expired union contracts
- Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 (5,070 workers): Contract expired Dec. 24, 2016. Bargaining slated to begin later this month.
- Winnipeg Police Association (526 civilians and 1,443 officers in uniform): Contract expired Dec. 23, 2016. Bargaining underway.
- United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, IAFF Local 867 (937 firefighters): Contract expired Dec. 24, 2016. Bargaining underway. Both sides have applied for arbitration.
- Winnipeg Association of Public Service Officers (739 professionals and middle managers): Contract expired Oct. 17, 2015. Talks have broken down. Arbitration is slated for April 2017.
- Winnipeg Police Senior Officers' Association (32 senior police): Contract expired Dec. 24, 2016. Negotiations on hold until WPA negotiations conclude.
City of Winnipeg unions with contracts
- Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 (1,397 transit workers): Contract expires Jan. 12, 2019
- Manitoba Government and General Employees Union Local 911 (342 paramedics): Contract expires Feb. 18, 2017
- Winnipeg Fire Paramedics Senior Officers' Association (48 senior firefighters): Contract expires Aug. 19, 2017