Strikers expand picketing plans

Jared Monkman/NNSL photo Emma Harper, left, and Brenda Niggar stand on the line, Saturday in front of the old town hall.

Jared Monkman/NNSL photo
Emma Harper, left, and Brenda Niggar stand on the line, Saturday in front of the old town hall.

Striking municipal workers trod new ground last week, expanding their picketing efforts to councillors’ houses and that of a fellow employee who chose to return to work.

“In any strike, you do see as time goes on an escalation,” said Gayla Thunstrom, vice-president of the Union of Northern Workers.

She added that when the employer, in this case the town, hires replacement workers the situation grows more tense as strikers have to find ways to get their point across. Members have been on strike since February.

“When people cross the line, even though they are a member, we don’t condone that,” said Thunstrom. “We still see it as other people doing the work of our members.”

The wife of the person who returned to work declined to comment on behalf of the couple. Councillors’ houses were also picketed over the course of the week.

While there is precedent for picketing workers who cross the line, Thunstrom said it doesn’t happen very often, in her experience.

“It’s not been a common thing,” she said. “Most workers who are on strike respect the strike line and that’s what we expect of our members.”

Thunstrom said that although there aren’t any definite plans, there would likely be increased picketing as a result of the town hiring contracted replacement workers to run services on an as-and-when basis.

At press time, Mayor Andrew Cassidy indicated the competition for those contracts – including providing administrative services for town hall, project management for public works and operating the Don Stewart Recreation Centre – would be a subject of discussion in camera on Monday night.

Thunstrom said members would in all likelihood be picketing those people hired through contracts for the duration of the strike.

“It’s not unusual to see members picketing people who do cross the line,” she said, adding that she was disappointed and confused with town council’s behaviour in inciting more strife in the community by bringing in the outside workers.

“The employer needs to accept binding arbitration, or else we’re going to be in this for the long haul.”

–Sarah Ladik