By Alison Taylor
A short and simple letter of apology has helped put an end to a
lawsuit launched by the municipality against the Canadian Union of Public
The lawsuit, which was before the Supreme Court of British
Columbia, was withdrawn late last week. It stemmed from a controversial CUPE
press release that called into question the resort’s drinking water last
“We are not pursuing it,” municipal spokesperson Diana Waltmann
said this week.
When asked if the written apology prompted the withdrawal of
the lawsuit, Carmela Allevato, a lawyer for CUPE said: “It’s mutually agreed.”
The municipality took legal action against the union after a
June 2005 press release said Whistler’s water was at risk due to a prolonged
labour dispute between the municipality and its water workers. In particular
the press release highlighted a water meter failure that CUPE said allowed
gallons of untreated surface water to flow into the water system, posing a
health risk to residents and guests.
The municipality immediately demanded a retraction of the press
release and asked for an apology but none was forthcoming at that time.
In its Statement of Claim filed in the Supreme Court in early
July the municipality argued that false information in the press release
deterred tourists from coming to Whistler and as such had an economic impact to
the resort. For this reason the municipality was looking for damages.
Last week, however, CUPE National Representative Robin Jones
wrote a letter of apology to Whistler’s mayor and council.
“We unconditionally apologize to all Whistler residents,
businesses, visitors and the municipality itself for any inconvenience caused by
our press release,” wrote Jones.
“That press release was not accurate. The safety of the
Whistler water supply and treatment system was not a concern. We know that the
municipality and its workers are committed to ensuring that it never will be a
concern. We were attempting to draw attention to our labour dispute in an
effort to put pressure on the municipality.”
Tensions were growing in June 2005 as CUPE and the municipality
struggled to reach a collective agreement that would end their long labour dispute.
The local chapter of CUPE includes municipal wastewater
treatment workers, utilities workers and bylaw officers. They voted to go on
limited strike action at the end of February 2005 when both sides could not
reach a new collective agreement at the bargaining table. By June they were
still without an agreement and efforts at mediation were floundering.
The labour dispute was ultimately resolved in January 2006.
“Everybody’s really looking forward to building a good relationship and providing the best possible services,” said Allevato. “Everyone’s looking to the future.”