Resort takes steps to combat CUPE claim that local water unsafe 

Legal action not ruled out as union fails to tender apology for claim to resort.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler is considering its options after CUPE sent out a press release claiming the dispute is putting the resort’s water at risk.

"We are examining all the options for next steps," said municipal spokeswoman Diana Waltmann.

Asked if that included legal action against the union she replied: "That could be an option."

Twenty-five members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2010 have been without a collective agreement for more than two years and have been on limited strike action since mid February.

CUPE workers are looking for a $4,000 cost of living allowance to offset the high cost of living in a resort town. They are also fighting against the rollback of benefits.

The wastewater treatment workers, utilities workers and bylaw officers are claiming that the safety of the resort’s water is being compromised by the municipality’s failure to reach a settlement with the union.

"It is our moral obligation to warn residents and visitors of the public safety risks they face in Whistler," said a recently released statement by CUPE chief negotiator Robin Jones.

"Recently a water meter failed for 45 minutes before it was discovered, allowing thousands of gallons of untreated surface water into the Whistler water system, posing a health risk for the young, elderly and immune-compromised individuals."

CUPE representatives did not return repeated calls by The Pique over a three day period.

The release went on to say: "CUPE 2010 is purchasing newspaper ads … to warn residents and visitors of the potential risk of visiting Whistler and drinking the water during this labour dispute."

Waltmann was adamant that the resort’s water supply is safe.

"We assure residents and guests that our water systems have always been of the highest quality and will continue to be of the highest quality and we won’t allow anything to compromise that."

She pointed out that the surface water contamination referred to by CUPE in their June 2 press release occurred Jan. 27 before any work action took place.

And, said Waltmann, the system is designed so that there is a three to five day chlorine retention in the water.

"There is no health risk," she said.

"There was none then and there is none now."

The water is tested regularly by the Ministry of Health and the results are posted at www.healthspace.ca/vch .

The municipality and CUPE did meet over the weekend for mediated talks. And, said Waltmann, it is hoped talks will resume later this week.

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