CUPE’s latest offer rejected by RMOW 

Impasse continues as two sides can’t agree on mediator

The latest proposal to end the standoff between the Resort Municipality of Whistler and CUPE has failed.

On June 29 CUPE proposed a new way to resolve the impasse in ongoing negotiations with the RMOW through a conciliator. That conciliator, UBC Professor and Labour Relations expert Joseph Weiler, was to meet both sides, review their positions and ultimately issue non-binding recommendations. At the same time CUPE pledged to stop its job action while the negotiations with the conciliator were underway.

But days after receiving CUPE’s proposal Whistler council rejected the offer.

In a closed meeting Monday morning council received CUPE’s letter outlining the proposal and gave direction to continue mediation through the Labour Relations Board and its mediator Debbie Cameron, said municipal spokesperson Diana Waltmann.

That was disappointing and frustrating news for Pete Davidson, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2010.

"It’s disappointing," he said. "This was a fair offer. They had nothing to lose. It wasn’t binding."

Joe Weiler is familiar with the Whistler labour dispute. Earlier this year he moderated a discussion with the Whistler Forum on the topic. According to CUPE’s letter to council, which was written by CUPE National Representative Robin Jones, Weiler "is an experienced mediator, arbitrator, and conciliator with vast knowledge of the negotiation process, and the community."

Still, council chose to pursue negotiations through the Labour Relations Board.

There are roughly 25 employees involved in the dispute, specifically Whistler’s wastewater treatment workers, utilities workers and the bylaw officers. Together they make up Local 2010.

In addition to the ongoing labour dispute, the RMOW is also suing CUPE over recent statements the union made claiming Whistler’s water is unsafe.

Once again Waltmann reiterated this week that the town’s water is safe.

This latest proposal was what CUPE had been referring to as their "made-in-Whistler" solution to their ongoing dispute with the municipality.

That problem began more than two years ago when their collective agreement with the RMOW ran out. As the two sides failed to reach an agreement, CUPE voted to take limited job action in mid-February. Since then they have not been doing overtime or on-call work.

The two sides have tried to reach an agreement at the bargaining table, to no avail, and mediation through the Labour Board has also failed to date. The latest mediation efforts took place in early June.

"We strongly believe the ‘traditional’ dispute resolution mechanisms have been tried and exhausted," wrote Jones in his June 29 letter to the municipality. "Another avenue of assistance must be found if this dispute is to be resolved without further escalation and ill will between the Parties."

Their sticking points, among other things, are CUPE’s request for a $4,000 living allowance to offset the high cost of living in Whistler, as well as fighting against benefit rollbacks.

"We’re not going to accept benefit rollbacks and be second class employees," reiterated Davidson this week.

The municipality, said Waltmann, is always willing to go back to mediation.

In the meantime Mayor Hugh O’Reilly announced at Monday’s council meeting that the RMOW and its unionized firefighters have signed a mutually beneficial collective agreement this week that covers the period through December 2010.

The firefighters and the 25 members of CUPE are the only unionized employees at the RMOW.

That agreement with the International Association of Fire Fighters was reached through the Labour Board, which is another reason why the municipality wants to continue to use that vehicle to reach a resolution with CUPE.


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