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‘The national union has their own agenda’


Many residents of Happy Valley-Goose Bay were surprised and disappointed Feb. 6 when the near month-long lockout of unionized town employees didn’t end.

The picket lines were deserted last week, as locked out workers attended a meeting to ratify a tentative deal between the Town and the CUPE Local 2019. The deal was rejected in the end.

On that date, the 43 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 2019 voted on whether or not to ratify the tentative deal between the town and the union. While the vote tally wasn’t made public, the offer was rejected, prolonging the labour dispute.

Mayor Jamie Snook contends the national union has let down the town management, council and the whole community, and said national CUPE representative Ed White didn’t seem to support the tentative deal that was on the table.

“It wasn’t the offer that was rejected, the deal was rejected. There was a deal agreed to between the town and the union, and the union wasn’t able to sell it to their members,” said Snook.

“We’re also not confident the options were presented fairly. The national union has their own agenda. … Friday’s vote was the latest example. (Ed White) had people believing there would be a deal. It’s rare when bargaining teams on both sides agree to a tentative deal and when side or the other then doesn't ratify.”

Neither White nor Local 2019 president Glenn Pittman were available for comment prior to publication.

Snook said he had been hopeful the lockout would be brief.

He said the council feels the first offer presented was a good deal, not only for employees, but also for taxpayers.

“At the beginning, council — before the strike vote by the union — offered the employees one of the best contracts in the history of the town: a 20 per cent wage increase over five years, a signing bonus, a shift differential, a guarantee of all current pensions. We were looking to work with the union to work out a long-term fix to the pension plan.

“Employees are welcome to come back to work on these terms whenever they’re ready. I also encourage them to talk to other unions to compare. Our first offer was an excellent one. As far as we’re concerned, that’s the only option right now, our first offer.”

Highlights

Below are some highlights of the tentative agreement voted on by union members:

Option A

Pensions

While the town proposed to have the pension plan to remain the same for all new hires under Option A, there were some changes regarding employee contributions.

If the union had ratified an agreement based on this offer, it would have required an increase in employee contributions from six per cent of earnings to 7.65 per cent.

The offer noted the maximum amount an employee would contribute is nine per cent of earnings and that “Any further contribution change will, in any event, be subject to a formal notice period of at least two months prior to any change in contribution rates to be issued by the town to the union.” It is also stated, “There shall be no maximum employer contribution rate.

Also, the offer included the formation of a committee to deal with certain pension issues.

“Effective January 1, 2015, it is agreed that the Town and the Union will establish a joint committee (with equal representation from both parties) to formulate a funding policy to address issues of surplus usage … or deficit funding.”

Wages

The wage increase tabled in Option A is 15 per cent over four years. Here is a breakdown of each year:

Jan. 1, 2013 — four per cent (retroactive)

Jan. 1, 2014 — four per cent (retroactive)

Jan. 1, 2015 — four per cent (retroactive)

Jan. 1, 2016 — three per cent

No signing bonus was offered.

Standby

Option A also included a provision to be able to put some employees on standby, if necessary. Each employee would receive $1.50 per hour while on standby.

“In the interest of providing an improved level of service within the municipality, it is agreed that the town, through the town manager or his designate, will provide a schedule of standby duty for one employee from each of the water and sewer and road maintenance divisions …,” the offer notes.

Shift premium

This offer by the town also included a shift premium, where “Employees required to work any hours outside of 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (Monday to Friday) shall be paid a shift differential of $1 per hour. This differential shall not be applicable to overtime.”

The duration of the agreement, if it had been ratified, would have been in effect from Jan. 1 2013 until Dec. 31, 2016.

bonnie.learning@tc.tc

Derek.montague@thelabradorian.ca

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