Union rejects town’s offer

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Jack Bourassa, left, throws copies of an open letter Mayor Andrew Cassidy sent to municipal workers asking them to return to work and cross picket lines into the fire last Thursday.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Jack Bourassa, left, throws copies of an open letter Mayor Andrew Cassidy sent to municipal workers asking them to return to work and cross picket lines into the fire last Thursday.

Despite some temporary movement on the town’s side last week municipal workers are headed for their fourth week of strike action.

“It’s so excellent, the mayor made an assumption that we are divided,” said Jack Bourassa, regional executive vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada last Thursday. “From everything, I’ve seen here, that’s not the case. In fact, we’ve heard from a councillor who says he wants to come out and picket with us.”

Bourassa declined to say which councillor when questioned by The Hub.

On Wednesday morning, both the municipality and unionized workers’ bargaining teams returned to the table at the behest of the mediator. Less than an hour and a half later, the mayor’s office released a statement saying the town had increased its offer from one per cent to one and a quarter over three years but also put a 24-hour deadline on the offer.

The statement read that the union’s bargaining team declined and left negotiations.

“Our original offer of one per cent wage increase remains open to acceptance,” it reads. “Unfortunately, the strike will continue.”

The union issued a similar statement but said the town’s offer was unfair and unreasonable.

“Every day, workers explain to their bargaining team what they are looking for, and the team won’t bring back an offer they’ll refuse,” it read. “Workers and the union are always willing to return to the table and negotiate but the town has only offered the team an ultimatum with no room to bargain fairly.”

Later on Wednesday, the town sent an open letter to all municipal employees inviting them to come back to work with the one per cent per year increase. In response, workers burned a poster made of the open letter in a rally outside the new fire hall on Thursday afternoon. PSAC national president Robyn Benson was on hand and told the union members present to show mayor Andrew Cassidy he could “stick his letter where the sun don’t shine” in an impassioned speech.

Workers continue to strike for an increase in pay in their next collective agreement. They are demanding 2.5, 2.25 and 2.25 per cent over the next three years, as well as the same increase in their housing allowance, which currently stands at nearly $500 a month, according to their collective agreement. The town has stood firm at a one per cent increase for three years since early February, with a brief respite to 1.25 last week. Cassidy was asked for comment but he hadn’t responded as of press time.

–Sarah Ladik