Members of local 339 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have voted overwhelmingly in favour of job action if they are unable to negotiate a fair settlement in the current round of bargaining, according to a news release from CUPE on Wednesday.
The union represents 85 employees at the city including newly-unionized employees at the youth centre. The union’s collective agreement with the city expired on December 31, 2015.
The news release states that 95 per cent of the 85 employees voted in favour of a strike.
“No one ever wants to go down this road, especially at this time of year,” CUPE 399 president Mike Stefiuk stated in the news release. “We are in a bit of a unique situation here because we feel bargaining is nearly settled. However, we have been unable to reach an agreement with the city when it comes to terms for the youth centre.”
Youth centre employees applied to unionize on July 8, 2016, and were taken into the bargaining unit comprised of city of Nelson employees, and have since been covered by the existing Local 339 agreement.
The youth centre, with seven to ten employees depending on the season, is a city program operating in a city-owned building. The centre runs the city campground in the summer.
Nelson’s chief financial officer Colin McClure, who is a member of the city’s bargaining team, in an interview with the Star, agreed that the sticking point is the status of the youth centre. He said the city wants different terms of employment for youth centre employees, with different pay scales and amount of annual increase, and different voting rules. Under that model, the youth centre would have a stand-alone agreement within the larger union local, similar to the agreement at the Nelson Library.
In CUPE’s news release, Stefiuk stated that the union wants “a modest wage increase and benefit improvements for our lowest paid members and trying to ensure they have stable employment. However, the city wants to keep discussing whether or not staff at the youth centre want to be unionized, which is not something that is properly addressed through collective bargaining.”
In response, McClure said, “The city has not disagreed with whether the youth centre staff should be unionized. Our stance is that it should be a stand-alone agreement, and that is what the youth centre staff understood it would be when they voted.”
McClure said that without the youth centre issue, “we would already have an agreement.”
He said the city is willing and available to continue negotiations but no bargaining dates have been set.