Manitoba

City of Winnipeg, firefighters' union move to binding arbitration for new contract

The City of Winnipeg and the union representing its firefighters will be going to binding arbitration to settle on a new collective bargaining agreement. 

Councillors to move waiving patio fees; changes to library holds pickup service, arenas reopening start Monday

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says binding arbitration, historically, has been costly for taxpayers. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

The City of Winnipeg and the union representing its firefighters will be going to binding arbitration to settle on a new collective bargaining agreement. 

The United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg filed for binding arbitration shortly into the new year after its contract expired Dec. 26, 2020. The city was against the appointment of an arbitration board because both parties were still in negotiations.

But Manitoba Finance Minister Scott Fielding proceeded with the union's arbitration application last week, said Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman Thursday — meaning an impartial arbitration board will be appointed to help resolve the negotiation.

"I have to say this is a disappointing action at this time by Minister Scott Fielding, since binding arbitration is typically not favourable to the interest of taxpayers," said Bowman.

"Taxpayers have paid on the chin in the past when binding arbitration has been utilized. My concern is that this will be costly, and we won't be able to affect changes in the collective agreement as we'd like as a result of the action initiated by Minister Scott Fielding."

The city is co-operating with the minister, Bowman said. In the meantime, the city and union are still in talks to strike a deal.

Bowman is unaware of a date for the arbitration, as an arbitrator still needs to be appointed, he said.

The UFFW alleges that the City of Winnipeg missed a deadline in October of last year. If true, it would effectively mean the city could not put any offers on the table for things such as wages and benefits; only the union's proposals would be up for negotiation.

The city disputes that assertion.

Councillors move to waive patio fees

Four city councillors plan to recommend waiving spring and summer patio processing fees for Winnipeg restaurants at Friday's meeting of the standing policy committee on finance.

A year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic was still in its infancy, restaurants could apply for a temporary patio for free. But this year there is a processing fee of $500 — although normally the fee runs between $1,200 and $2,300, according to a city spokesperson.

The fee puts some local restaurants in a pinch financially, as they've been operating under level red pandemic restrictions since Nov. 2, 2020.

But councillors Scott Gillingham, Sherri Rollins, Jason Schreyer and John Orlikow plan to introduce a motion to waive the fee and refund any applicants who have already paid, in order to help restaurants impacted by COVID-19, a news release says.

Per Manitoba's public health order, restaurants in Winnipeg were unable to offer dine-in service to customers for over three months. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

"Many restaurant owners are still struggling under the weight of health restrictions that have drastically reduced their ability to earn revenue," Gillingham, who is also committee chair, said in the release.

"Waiving the summer patio fees expands on the business supports included in the 2021 budget that create jobs and strengthen our local economy."

If the motion is approved at Friday's meeting, the proposal will move to the Executive Policy Committee where it would be voted on by city council.

Changes to library holds pickup service, arena reopenings upcoming

The city is changing holds pickup service at its libraries and reopening some arenas Monday, it announced in a news release.

Library customers will be able to enter Winnipeg Public Library branches to pick up books on hold, return borrowed items and register for or update a membership, the release says.

Up until now, the service has been more of a curbside pickup, said Jay Shaw, the city's assistant chief of emergency management, during a news conference.

"We're starting that phased approach to be able to get everything reopened with all of our safety precautions," Shaw said.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms will not be allowed to enter a library. Those who are cleared to enter must sanitize their hands, wear a face mask and maintain physical distancing at all times. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Anyone entering the library will have to complete a self-assessment for COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone who is symptomatic will not be allowed to enter, the release says. Those who do enter a library will have to sanitize their hands, wear a face mask and maintain physical distancing.

The only libraries exempted from the upcoming changes are the Cornish Library, which is under renovation, and the River Heights Library on Corydon Avenue, which closes permanently Saturday at 5 p.m., the release says.

Holds placed at the River Heights Library that are not picked up when it shuts down will be moved to Charleswood Library on Roblin Boulevard. Any borrowed items not returned by 5 p.m. Saturday can be returned at any other open library, the release says.

Meanwhile, four arenas — Eric Coy, Century, Terry Sawchuk and River East arenas — will be opening Monday at 25 per cent capacity for casual ice use.

Visitors will have to abide by public health orders and provide contact information when they enter the facility, in case contact tracing is required.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Frew is an online reporter with CBC Edmonton who focuses mainly on data-driven stories. Hailing from Newfoundland and Labrador, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has previously worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. You can reach him at nick.frew@cbc.ca.

With files from Sean Kavanagh and Sam Samson

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