Mediator called to bring municipality and CUPE together 

Two days of talks to be held in Whistler next week

The municipality and its disgruntled unionized employees are going back to the bargaining table.

This week the municipality decided to accept a recent offer from the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2010 to bring in an independent mediator, with an aim to bring the two sides closer together.

The decision marks the end of a three-month impasse between the municipality and its 29 CUPE workers, made up of bylaw, wastewater treatment and utilities workers.

Both sides are hoping for a resolution to the dispute as soon as possible.

"There’s no dialogue right now, no communication, so we have to open some kind of line of communication," said CUPE Local 2010 President Pete Davidson. " It’s been very rough on us. It’s not only a financial loss but it’s very stressful.

"I think the people of Whistler deserve an early resolve to this."

CUPE’s request for mediation was also prompted by the loss of the lab tech at the plant. Without a lab tech, the union cannot meet the essential services requirements deemed necessary by the Labour Relations Board in the event of job action.

"We have to put the people of Whistler first and we have to make sure our bases are covered," said Davidson.

The mediator, provided by the Labour Relations Board, will attempt to find common ground and work to bring the two polarized sides closer together. The hot topics of contention are a $4,000 cost of living increase the workers are looking for to offset the high cost of living in Whistler. They are also fighting against a rollback of benefits.

CUPE Local 2010 have been without a collective agreement for more than two years and have been on limited job action since mid-February after talks between the two sides stalled.

The municipality has suggested mediation services on two separate occasions prior to this – once in December 2004 and a second time in January this year. Both times the union rejected the suggestion.

"We’re pleased," said Diana Waltmann, municipal information officer. "We have always thought (mediation) would be helpful… We think it’ll open up communication again and hopefully we can resolve things."

The mediation is set for June 1 and June 2 in Whistler.

Despite going to mediation Davidson said the union is prepared to stand its ground.

"We hope they’ve listened to our concerns," he said. "They have no justification for benefit rollbacks so they should just drop the rollbacks and deal with us fairly and squarely.

"(Also) our cost of living concerns have to be addressed somehow."

Both sides have agreed to mediation without recommendations so that if they fail to reach an agreement, there will be no recommendations on the table.

"Our mediator won’t do a report that could come back to haunt us down the road," said Davidson. "If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work and we’ll… go to the next step."

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