What’s at stake in this round of bargaining?

CUPE 798 Powell River city workers have been without a contract for two and a half years. Despite many days of bargaining we have not been able to move the City off a very aggressive package of concessions or to get agreement on some of our key proposals.

We believe that we should be able to reach agreement. The city is in good financial health – with its financial assets and total reserve accounts growing, and its debt decreasing. City spending has been below inflation, growing slowly over time. From 2009 – 2013 Powell River had a 6.5% increase in expenditures, less than inflation for that time period.

Major stumbling blocks in bargaining

The city and CUPE began bargaining in February 2014, but despite having had more than 25 days of bargaining, we still remain far apart. The employer tabled a very aggressive package of concessions. The union has demonstrated that we are prepared to explore issues and to look for solutions, but we need to see the employer get into a settlement zone around key issues, including removing the aggressive concessions package.

Key issues for CUPE members are:

Respect for part-time workers. We believe that qualified workers who have provided service to the city on a part-time basis should be able to move into full time jobs when those jobs become available. So far, the city is not willing to recognize years of service and commitment in their hiring process.

Job security and service levels. The City is proposing to cut the minimum service levels in the collective agreement by almost 10 per cent. Given that the actual service levels provided have always been well above the minimum levels CUPE is concerned that the proposed cut may mean the employer is looking to cancel or cut back services in the future, resulting in significant job loss for city workers.

Recognition and value for jobs. Almost a decade ago, the City and CUPE agreed to engage in job, evaluation in recognition that many jobs have historically been undervalued. We are now in the process of reviewing jobs and beginning to address fair value and recognition for work. CUPE is prepared to be flexible as to how this process works but the City must be prepared to address this and other issues fairly.

A fair wage settlement. Like workers in other communities, we are looking to keep up with rising costs. Workers in cities all around us have achieved modest wage settlements as part of recent bargaining and Powell River employees are seeking similar terms. For example, Parksville workers achieved a wage increase of 2.5% in 2013 and 2% in each of the next four years. Workers in Nanaimo achieved a 2% increase in each of five years beginning in 2013. And right here in our region, Regional District workers achieved a five-year agreement that included increases of 2% in 2013 and 2.5% in 2014 (1.75% in 2015; 1.5% in 2016 & 17; 2.5% in 2018)

We also know that senior managers in Powell River have had very substantial salary increases, far in excess of anything unionized workers have achieved.

What can you do? Our Mayor and Council need to hear that you think Powell River City workers should get a fair deal. Find contact information for them here: http://www.powellriver.ca/content/contact-council