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CUPE and business leaders meet at Whistler Forum

Debate raises more aspects of affordability issue

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A discussion organized by the Whistler Forum for Dialogue has breathed new life into the dispute over wage increases for unionized employees at the Resort Municipality of Whistler and highlighted how relevant this issue is for many other workers in Whistler.

The Forum, which is organized by William Roberts, met Tuesday to discuss the role of unions in resort communities and the topic attracted many of Whistler’s powerbrokers.

G.D. Maxwell and Joseph Weiler were the designated speakers and their presentations prompted discussion from Local 2010 President Pete Davidson and other members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Councillor Gordon McKeever, Tourism Whistler Chairman Rick Clare, Tim Wake from the Whistler Housing Authority and NDP candidate Lyle Fenton were also in attendance.

Weiler runs a Whistler business and is also a law professor. He opened the discussion with a short history on workplace arbitration in Canada and focussed on how important it is for both sides to keep talking.

After hearing some of the public’s feedback Weiler added that getting someone to work on behalf of CUPE and the RMOW would help move the debate forward and appease the public.

Maxwell, who writes for Pique Newsmagazine and formerly practised law, spoke specifically about CUPE and the RMOW and about how the issues of affordability and wages were issues for most workers in Whistler.

Maxwell also said that CUPE had lost a lot of supporters when they started calling for a "Whistler premium" rather than just a straight $4,000 wage increase.

CUPE workers responded by giving several examples of how Whistler seems to be "disconnecting from its long term vision of sustainability."

But the comment that drew the most reaction was when one CUPE member said Whistler "was becoming a town without a soul."

Clare jumped on that statement, as did Bob Lorriman and former Whistler councillor Dave Kirk.

"Affordability is an issue that should be pulling us together, not apart," was a comment that was supported around the room.

Fenton said "intimidation" was always a big part of these debates.

"One of the biggest things in these disputes is always the intimidation because it’s strong and people need to be aware of it," said Fenton.

The debate ended with a testimony from a younger worker who said his wage had not changed in seven years.

"I’m able to live here because I’ve organized a cheap place to live but I’m still at the same level I was seven years ago.

"It just seems to me like the employers don’t care about keeping people long-term."

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