New Brunswick

Fredericton will lock out outside workers after union delivers strike notice

Fredericton’s outside workers delivered a 24-hour strike notice at 4 p.m.Thursday after negotiations between the union and the city failed.

Months of talks, recent mediation failed as gap on wage demands remains

The union representing the City of Fredericton's outside workers delivered a 24-hour strike notice Thursday afternoon after mediation failed. (Myfanwy Davies/CBC)

Fredericton's outside workers delivered a 24-hour strike notice at 4 p.m.Thursday after negotiations between the union and the city failed.

The decision follows a Monday night council vote to lock out members of CUPE Local 508 if they gave notice.

The local represents outside workers, including those involved in trails, parks, and outdoor rink maintenance, snow removal on streets and sidewalks, as well as drinking water and wastewater repair.

The outside workers' contract ended in December 2018 and talks have been going on since last October. 

Union leadership could not be immediately reached Thursday evening, but a CUPE release stated the mediation process failed and a gap remains on wage demands.

CUPE Local 508 represents outside workers, including those involved in snow removal on streets and sidewalks. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

This marks the first time a strike notice was given in the history of bargaining for the outside workers' union, the union said.

Wayne Knorr, communications manager for the City of Fredericton, said Thursday the city will now lock out the workers until a new collective agreement is reached.

"The City had made a fair and final offer, with increases to wages, benefits and the employee boot allowance tied to the Consumer Price Index for New Brunswick. The union has rejected that offer," Knorr said in a statement.

He said the city would not share details of the offer.

However, the union said it was willing to accept a raise based on the consumer price index for each year of the five-year agreement, with a floor of 1.75 per cent. 

It claimed the city returned with no increase in the first year and increases tied to the consumer price index for the next four.

"But that was not close enough to gain wage parity with other municipalities in New Brunswick," said Local 508 president Kevin Smallwood in the release.

Filling service gaps

Knorr said the city already has plans in place to deliver basic services performed by the locked-out workers.

At the council meeting Monday, Chris MacPherson, the city's chief administrative officer said city managers who have the training will step in to drive plows and salt trucks and fulfil other gaps in services.

"We'll do the best we can, but it's not going to be service as usual for the public," he said.

A lockout will prevent the union from taking a rotating strike action, which the city said would make providing services more difficult.

With files from Lauren Bird

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