Nfld. & Labrador

No talks planned for City of Mount Pearl and union, as strike enters 6th week

More than 200 people represented by Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2099 have been on the picket line since July 7.

Both sides say they're willing to go back to the table — and blame the other side for holding things up

Mount Pearl Mayor Dave Aker says the city is ready to return to the bargaining table as a strike involving municipal workers enters its sixth week. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Little progress has been made in efforts to negotiate a new collective agreement for striking municipal workers in the City of Mount Pearl, according to both the mayor and the union, as the strike enters its sixth week. 

More than 200 workers represented by Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2099 have been on the picket line since July 7, saying they refuse to accept a two-tier system that would involve what union leadership says are unacceptably low benefits for new hires.

Recreational facilities and other city-operated programs have been closed or on hold as a result, but routine services like garbage collection and permit issuing have continued on a smaller scale.

Mount Pearl Mayor Dave Aker says the two meetings the parties have had since the end of July have boiled down to four major sticking points: shift considerations, sick leave, compensation and management rights.

"We've had some discussions all the way around the table on most of those issues," Aker said Friday, adding the city is ready to go back to the bargaining table.

Aker accused the union of dragging out the process, pointing to a recent complaint the union made to Newfoundland and Labrador's Labour Relations Board over a clause on management rights, which he says will hold up negotiations.

"That's really going to set us back. It's a bit of a head-scratcher," Aker said. "It looks like we're headed into another holding pattern for a little while while that gets resolved.

Ken Turner, president of CUPE local 2099, standing in front of Mount Pearl city hall.
Ken Turner, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2099, says the city is unwilling to move on wages. (Mike Moore/CBC)

Local 2099 president Ken Turner disputed Aker's claim, saying the union was told the complaint doesn't have to hold up talks.

"The conciliator has said we can go back to the table and we can discuss the other four, five or six items — there's actually six items if you count wages — that are on the table while we wait for this to play out as well," Turner said.

He said the complaint was made against the city over bargaining in bad faith.

"The conciliator has told us that we have made movement and we've made the strides to try to come to an agreement.… The city wants what they want, and they're not going to move."

City has spent over $40K on surveillance

As the strike enters its sixth week, Aker said the city is keeping its eyes on the picket line. The municipal government issued a press release on July 22 claiming "repeated instances of disrespectful behaviour that continue to go beyond legal picketing to bullying and intimidation."

At Tuesday's city council meeting, Aker said the city has spent over $40,000 on video surveillance of the picket line.

"We just want to make sure at the end of the day that if we do have to take some action on the disciplinary side, we've got the evidence to sort of help that process along," he said.

"We also believe in being transparent, and this week we also released the salaries of the city's management team as well as the unionized staff. At the end of the day we want to talk and have a frank discussion about our working conditions, our pay and our benefits."

A group of workers rally outside of a building carrying signs.
Mount Pearl workers rally outside City Hall on June 29. A similar rally for workers was also held earlier this week. (Submitted by CUPE/Twitter)

Turner called the spending "unbelievable" and "atrocious," especially when considering that wages are a contentious issue of negotiations.

"The city has already come out and said they've offered [a five per cent increase] over four years. We feel that's inadequate given today's economic climate, and certainly not a reflection of what we've seen in other municipalities across the province, including St. John's most recent agreement with their workers," he said. 

"It's a complete lack of respect."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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