Union members threatening strike action against the municipality had a short but dramatic showdown with the mayor and council on Monday night.
During the public question and answer period, Peter Davidson, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2010, attempted to ask council how much longer they were willing to let the wastewater system degrade as talks between the two sides floundered.
But Mayor Hugh O'Reilly cut Davidson off saying: "I am going to ask you to please stop.
"We have a negotiation in process."
Standing at the microphone unable to finish his question, Davidson, a water worker who has lived and worked for the municipality for 12 years said: "As a taxpayer, I'm deeply offended by this."
With that, the local CUPE president walked out of the council chambers along with at least eight other members of the union, who had donned black CUPE T-shirts in a show of solidarity.
Moments later, standing at the door of the council chambers, Davidson said he was frustrated by the mayor's response.
"We were here tonight to prevent escalation of job action," he said. "(Now) we're going to bring the power of organized labour in this province and in this country to bear on this municipality."
Davidson added that he wants municipal Administrator Jim Godfrey to instruct his staff to get back to the negotiating table.
Municipal spokesperson Diana Waltmann said the RMOW is waiting for the union to get back to negotiations.
"We can't negotiate if they're not at the table," she said. "We're waiting to hear from them."
The attempt to engage council on Monday night during the public question and answer period is part of CUPE's campaign to make the public more aware of their plight without escalating job action.
The union local, which represents 29 utility workers, wastewater treatment plant workers and bylaw officers, is fighting for a cost-of-living allowance at $4,000 a year to offset the high cost of living in Whistler. They are also fighting a move to rollback their benefits package as well as eliminate set hours and schedules of work.
When talks fell apart a few weeks ago, the workers voted to start job action. Now they are not working any overtime hours and have handed over any cell phones and pagers.
Last week the union workers were buoyed by support from the CUPE B.C. President who was in Whistler for two days of meetings.
Barry O'Neill said he was disappointed in some respects with his visit and his failure to engage the mayor and council. He had one meeting with Councillor Ken Melamed who was standing in as acting mayor while O'Reilly was out of the country.
"I think the community expects all those that are able to in fact make a difference, get involved. Its simply not good enough to leave it to somebody else, if in fact theres an opportunity," said O'Neill.
At the same time the visit confirmed his support for the Whistler workers and the need to come to a resolution soon.
"We have no reason to want to go on strike or create a major work stoppage here," said O'Neill.
"But we will not be pushed back. We will not be disrespected. We will in fact defend our members and whatever is necessary to make that happen, will happen, make no mistake about that.
"But I'm hoping to get back to the table and knuckle down, to really get a resolve, because every day this goes on I think the more entrenched people get and that becomes very difficult and not something that I want to see."
O'Neill said he would be trying to get the CUPE members across the province, made up of 70,000 workers, and the national membership of half a million workers, to stand behind the Whistler workers in a show of support.
Meanwhile local 2010 will continue to campaign in the community and make their case heard.
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