CUPE serves strike notice 

Mediation talks fail

The Canadian Union of Public Employees local 2010 served the Resort Municipality of Whistler 72-hour strike notice Wednesday after another failed round of mediation.

Two hours after the last round of talks broke off Tuesday CUPE’s bargainer Robin Jones said they had not yet decided whether or not they would escalate strike action once the notice had been served.

"We haven’t made a decision as to whether or not we will in fact escalate it but we want the option open to do that," said Jones.

The 28 union workers, made up of bylaw officers, wastewater treatment plant workers and utilities workers, have been on limited strike action since February.

Municipal Information Officer Diana Waltmann said they were disappointed that this third round of mediation, which took place Monday and Tuesday, failed. But she said the municipality is prepared for more strike action as Whistler heads into its busiest season.

"We don’t quite know what action is going to be taking place," she said. "We (will) still have essential services and our management will continue to provide the services if they don’t."

Jones called the latest mediation with the municipality and Labour Board mediator Debbie Cameron disappointing, particularly as the union was willing to drop some if its major demands.

The union had been looking for a $4,000 cost of living allowance to offset the high cost of living in Whistler.

"We had let it be known that we would be prepared to drop our demand for the living allowance and we would be prepared to accept the employer’s wage offer, which in our mind was a huge move," said Jones.

In return, CUPE wanted a clothing allowance and recognition that one of its members should be paid more for their higher qualifications.

"Those were actually the last things on the plate and the employer wouldn’t move," said Jones.

"We took strong stands and we have, through the three mediation sessions, given up those demands to achieve a collective agreement. Quite frankly, there’s nothing left to give. But we’re getting nothing, absolutely nothing, in return."

Waltmann said the municipality made concessions as well though she would not elaborate on the details because it’s municipal policy not to bargain through the media.

The RMOW is willing to go back to mediation to try to resolve this ongoing labour dispute. CUPE’s collective agreement with the municipality expired at the end of 2002. Bargaining meetings have been held throughout the past three years.

After talks failed the union began limited strike action on Feb. 22 this year and has not been working any overtime since then.

"We’re always ready to go back (to the bargaining table)," said Waltmann. "We’ll continue to act in the best interests of the resort and all staff."

When asked why he thinks the mediation failed, Jones didn’t mince words about what he sees as the municipality’s efforts to break the union.

"I believe the underlying cause is Whistler doesn’t want any chance at all that anybody would be interested in joining the union," said Jones. "If we achieved some of these things that are perks that other people have… I think Whistler’s afraid that people will join the union. And that’s what this is about. This is about keeping the union small and isolated as opposed to achieving a collective agreement."

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