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CUPE threatens job action

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CUPE says there is only one issue outstanding in its contract negotiations with the municipality but if the two sides can’t come to some agreement by the end of the month approximately 25 bylaw department and wastewater treatment plant workers may set up picket lines.

Tom McKenna, negotiator for the 24-26 Resort Municipality of Whistler employees represented by CUPE local 3853, said bargaining on a second contract has been going on for approximately one year. The only issue still unresolved, McKenna said, is cumulative sick time.

"Employees are allotted so many sick days per year. If they accumulate them over time and don’t use them they are paid out at 50 per cent," McKenna said.

"The employer has said they can’t afford that. We said we understand their concerns and have asked for something else in return. They’ve said no."

Kathy Wallace, human resources officer for the municipality, could only say that the two sides are currently in mediation.

"We had a meeting last week," Wallace said. "There’s no further meetings scheduled at this time but that’s mostly a function of getting everyone together."

Wallace said she didn’t want to negotiate through the media.

However, McKenna says the union has offered to trade the cumulative sick time for increased vacation time or a compressed work week, but has been turned down.

"Unless council can be moved I don’t see where we can go. It’s either job action or we concede," McKenna said.

The majority of Whistler municipal employees, who are not part of a union, still get cumulative sick time, according to McKenna. He said he suspects the municipality is using the union employees as a "Trojan horse" – if the union concedes on cumulative sick time then non-union employees will be asked to do the same.

McKenna said the municipality’s non-union employees have received pay increases of 2, 2 and 3 per cent over three years, the same as what is now being offered to the union employees, but the non-union employees have not been asked for any concessions.

McKenna said he has written municipal administrator Jim Godfrey, asking for his intervention in the negotiations. He has given Godfrey until Jan. 30 to respond.

"We want to help the municipality, to help it participate in the freestyle world championships and the Olympics, but we’re being pushed to the picket line," McKenna said.

"Our preference is, there’s one outstanding item, let’s sign the contract and re-build our relationship."

McKenna said he has also asked the Labour Relations Board to look into two charges of unfair labour practices he has alleged against the municipality. One involves the original wage offer to the union, which was below what was offered non-union employees. The second is a violation of a previous verbal agreement that any changes to the handbook which sets out municipal policies on employment for non-union employees would automatically apply to union employees. No date has been set for the LRB hearing.

Whistler firefighters are the only other unionized municipal employees. Whistler firefighters, members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, local 3944, were certified in May of 1999. They have yet to reach agreement on a first contract.

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