City responds to union's rejection of mediator recommendations
City officials reacted today with disappointment at hearing of the union’s rejection of the recommendations of the Labour Relations Board appointed Mediator David Schaub. If accepted, the recommendations would have ended the strike and concluded a new collective agreement between the parties. The collective agreement expired in February 2013.
City Council voted to accept the mediator’s recommendations on Tuesday of this week, while the union rejected them last night at a membership meeting. The union began its strike action over 10 weeks ago which has, to date, taken the form of an overtime ban but could escalate at any time.
“We are disappointed that the Union has rejected the recommendations of this professional and independent mediator,” says Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff. “It was at the union’s request that we welcomed the mediator in July, but the union booked him out and ended talks. Once again, at the union’s request, we welcomed the mediator back in September, and when he issued recommendations to the parties, council accepted them but the union rejected them and instead chose to continue their strike.”
The mediator’s recommendations included a 6.14-per-cent wage increase over four years, no concessions and all of the generous benefits improvements offered to the union in the city’s July 15th final offer. These include an increase in extended health benefits coverage from $1,000 a year to $1,500 a year for paramedical services over the course of the agreement as well as optical care coverage rising from $400 to $600 every two years upon ratification.
“The mediator’s deal keeps City of Castlegar employees among the highest paid in the region with top of the line benefits in the province,” says Chernoff. “We have to hold the line somewhere.”
Had the union accepted the mediator’s recommendations, city workers in Castlegar will have received a 23.64-per-cent wage increase since 2008.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we have put a fair and respectful offer to our staff. We then accepted an independent mediator’s recommendations. The actions of the union are demoralizing for staff, disruptive to the city and costly for taxpayers. We have bargained in good faith and will take whatever action is necessary to ensure this doesn’t go on forever,” says chief administrative officer (CAO) John Malcolm.
In the case of a full blown strike or lockout, all city facilities, including City Hall, Civic Works, the Fire Hall and RCMP will remain open and service will continue to be provided by non-unionized staff. Staff will endeavour to provide prompt customer service to residents, businesses and visitors.