CUPE members walk off job for one day 

Municipality ensures no disruption in service from wastewater and utilities departments

Growing tensions between disgruntled union workers and the municipality reached a boiling point this week when wastewater and utilities workers walked off the job for one day.

On Monday morning the workers, who are part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, discovered their lunchroom bulletin board had been taken off the wall and all the papers on it, namely letters supporting their limited job action against the municipality, ripped up and thrown in the garbage.

That was enough to prompt Local 2010 President Pete Davidson to walk off the job, along with all other union employees in the wastewater and utilities department.

"It's just another insult on top of all the other insults," said Davidson shortly after walking off the job on Monday. "They could have asked us to remove it and we would have discussed it and they could have removed it and given it (the letters) to us in a folder but they chose to rip it down and tear it up."

Davidson made a decision not to pull bylaw officers, who are also part of the 29-member local, off the job.

"They weren't part of the building and it was an action by us," he said.

Later that day Davidson said they would be returning to work on Tuesday, adding that the catalyst for job action shouldn't be triggered by vandalism of a bulletin board. Still, the incident is now in the hands of the union lawyers.

During the walk out the municipality ensured there was no disruption in service from the wastewater treatment and utilities departments. The municipality has obtained essential service designation, which means there must be union workers on hand to ensure the utilities and wastewater treatment plant operates in compliance with all permits and certificates.

One worker was on standby during the walk out.

Tensions have been growing ever since the 29 CUPE members voted to take limited job action in mid-February in response to a written offer from the municipality.

Ever since the two sides have been at an impasse, both arguing that the other side should invite them back to the bargaining table. The union workers are looking for a cost of living allowance, among other things, to offset the higher cost of living in a resort town. Davidson also said they are not willing to accept the concessions in the municipality's last written offer.

CUPEÕs contract with the RMOW expired in December 2002.

This latest incident has not changed the municipality's position, according to Diana Waltmann, municipal information officer, which is that the RMOW is waiting to get called back to the bargaining table by the union.

She also said CUPE has designated bulletin boards in the workplace as part of their collective agreement. The lunchroom board is not one of those designated bulletin boards.

Davidson said the designated bulletin board in the utilities bay is too small.

"(It's) a two foot by two foot tiny little thing that can barely hold a calendar up and they've got eight of them in the lunchroom that are not in use," he explained.

CUPE officials at head office could not comment before press time on Wednesday.

For anyone interested in discussing the role of unions in resort towns in general, the Whistler Forum is holding a Dialogue Forum (formerly called Dialogue CafŽs) on the issue on Tuesday, April 12 at MY Millennium Place from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

The discussion centres around questions such as: are unions, associations and collective bargaining more suited to heavy industrial and large public sector economies, or do they have a role in contributing to the economic and social well being of smaller resort communities?

Whistler business owner and UBC Law Professor Joe Weiler will kick off the discussion, along with the Pique's own pundit G.D. Maxwell. All welcome to share their views.

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