A majority of the 1,200 District of Saanich workers represented by CUPE Local 2011 voted Tuesday (Aug. 16) to strike, after the union rejected what its president called a “rollover” agreement that fails to address cost-of-living challenges.
More than 94 per cent of employees who voted picked the option to strike. District and union negotiators reached an impasse last week after Saanich’s latest contract proposal was turned down by the union.
CUPE Local 2011 president Ryan Graham said Wednesday the district on Aug. 4 withdrew affordability items from its offer. Much of the contract hasn’t been reviewed or updated in more than a decade, he added.
The two parties have been negotiating a new collective agreement since December 2021.
“We thought we were getting somewhere with negotiations in late July, early August,” Graham told Black Press Media. “We would be quite happy to re-enter negotiations and get back to the table … as long as the district is willing to listen.”
In a statement, Saanich acting chief administrative officer Suzanne Samborski confirmed the union rejection of its offer. Should a strike occur, she added, certain “essential work” must continue, noting the parties are currently negotiating an essential services agreement in accordance with the provincial Labour Relations Code.
“CUPE is not in a legal position to serve 72-hour strike notice until the essential service levels are finalized and approved by the provincial Minister of Labour,” Samborski wrote.
Public services provided by CUPE Local 2011 members includes water, wastewater, sanitation, roads, parks, planning, recreation and police and fire operations. Affordability proposals the union has brought forward cover benefit improvements, allowances, safety equipment and casual and precarious worker support, its Wednesday statement said.
“For a lot of our workers, they’re living paycheque to paycheque,” Graham said, detailing the growing struggle to finance groceries, housing and transportation. “We don’t have anywhere to go with what addresses our members needs.”
Samborski said the district remains open to resuming negotiations when the union’s bargaining committee wishes to do so.
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