By Andrew Mitchell
The confrontation between the Canadian Union of Public
Employees and the RMOW took a turn for the worst last week when attempts at
mediated talks broke down twice with no resolution.
Then CUPE went too far.
The union, which represents about 25 municipal sewage and
water treatment workers as well as bylaw officers and utilities workers in
Whistler, threatened to take out ads nationally and internationally warning
people to stay away from Whistler because of concerns over the quality of the
Of course, if you asked the union it wasn't a threat per
se. "It is our moral obligation to warn residents and visitors of the
public safety risks they face in Whistler," said CUPE national
representative Robin Jones.
But it sure felt like one.
There's nothing wrong with the water, according to
government reports. It gets monitored regularly and if any problems do show up
then the public will be alerted immediately as measures are taken to correct
the problem. Water is taken very seriously by all levels of government.
The actual employees who test water are not even allowed
to go on full strike - they're as much an essential service as police,
paramedics and doctors. The 'work to rule' job action is about as far as they
can go without breaking the law.
So what was CUPE trying to pull? Were they really hoping
to scare the people of Whistler into demanding that the municipality back their
call for a $4,000 cost of living increase?
And in the process did they really want to kick the
crutch out from under our slowly recovering tourism industry to drive home a
point about affordability, effectively endangering the livelihoods of local
businesses and thousands of resort workers?
I can't imagine local CUPE members supporting a warning
that would hurt all of their neighbours who make their living off the tourism
trade. Is the union really so out of touch with this community they're
pretending to care about, or so blind to the kind of damage that these kinds of
threats can cause?
Walkerton was not that long ago, after all, and we all
saw what kind of impact the recent SARS outbreak had on Canadian tourism. This
is not a threat to be taken lightly.
The municipality is on top of things. They have consulted
lawyers on the issue, and developments should progress quickly this week.