Talks break down between union and town

Jared Monkman/NNSL photo Kim Tybring stands on the picket line last week. Municipal workers have been striking for more than two months for an increase in wages.

Jared Monkman/NNSL photo
Kim Tybring stands on the picket line last week. Municipal workers have been striking for more than two months for an increase in wages.

Negotiations between UNW members and the municipality collapsed on Monday after both parties agreed to return to the table on Sunday.

“They’re not there to negotiate, as far as we’re concerned,” said Mayor Andrew Cassidy.

The town initially offered a raise of 1.35 per cent over three years, an offer the union countered with 2 per cent over three years, the same increase in their housing benefit, and a $500 signing bonus for all members. According to Cassidy, when the town did not agree to those terms, the bargaining team for the union put a 1 p.m. deadline on the offer, after which it would return to its original offer of 2.5 in the first year and 2.25 in the two consecutive years.

But the union maintains they did not make any ultimatums. Jack Bourassa, regional executive vice president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) said the offer had been on the table until the end of the negotiation session.

“I was optimistic this time, but now I’m baffled,” he told The Hub. “The two per cent offer was really the lowest the members can accept, the members wanted to wipe the table clean and end this.”

Bourassa also said the town’s bargaining team told the union’s team that some members would not be going back to work when the strike ends. Although both parties declined to comment on which positions they may be, Cassidy said current council has been exploring ways to reduce costs, including re-working positions, since the beginning of their term.

“We had to keep that door open,” said Cassidy. “In good faith, we had to tell them, although it is a separate issue from the negotiations.”

As for the move to set a deadline on an offer before returning to their original position – a move the union criticized when the town made it early in the now 12-week strike – Bourassa said it was not a “tit for tat” play.

“This was effectively the final offer from our members, they took everything else off the table,” he said. “The members have a right to escalate action and return to their original position.”

Rachel Yee, a member of the bargaining team for the union said the two per cent offer was lower than the membership mandate.

“We were willing to go below our mandate to put an end to the strike,” she said. “But obviously council doesn’t want that.”

–Sarah Ladik