Bathurst workers reject city's latest offer as lockout enters third week
City says it can't afford the pay increase sought by union
Locked-out Bathurst municipal workers voted Wednesday to reject the city's latest contract offer after two days of contract talks.
Guy DeSilva, president of CUPE Local 1282, said members voted 90 per cent against the offer.
"We are bitterly disappointed" with the outcome, Mayor Paolo Fongemie said at a news conference Thursday. He said the lockout will continue until there's movement at the bargaining table.
On July 25, the city locked out 22 workers, including receptionists, IT support technicians, payroll and accounts clerks. City managers have been performing the duties of those locked out.
"We feel it sends a clear message," DeSilva said about the vote results. "We're ready to go back to the table, and we feel there's still room to negotiate and work out a fair deal."
DeSilva said the union and city made progress and settled several items during negotiations with a provincially appointed mediator Monday and Tuesday. But wages continue to be a sticking point.
The union is seeking wage increases around two per cent per year for five years, DeSilva said. The mayor said the city's offer included 1.5 per cent annually for five years.
The union says the two per cent figure is in line with the average recent increase in the cost of living based on Statistics Canada data.
But the mayor points to an inflation calculator on CUPE's website — which uses Statistics Canada data — that puts the inflation rate at 1.28 per cent between January 2017 and December 2018.
The union's executive rejected an offer from the city in June that included a pay increase of six per cent over five years.
Fongemie has said the city can't afford to provide the wage increase the union is seeking, pointing to a tax base hit by business closures and an aging population. He said the council elected in 2016 is trying to get the city's finances in order.
The last contract expired in 2016. The contract had pay rates between $23.53 per hour and $33.52, depending on the role.
- Based on the last publicly available figures, an earlier version of the story said the last contract between the city and CUPE Local 1282 had pay rates between $22.66 per hour and $32.41 in 2015. The city has since provided information showing the 2016 rates ranged from $23.53 to $33.52.Aug 16, 2019 12:36 PM AT