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Mayor faces off with unionized workers in council chambers

CUPE Local 2010 rallies support from around the province



A public question and answer period at Monday's council meeting quickly turned into a heckling and jeering session when union workers packed into the crowded room demanding answers from Whistler's mayor.

Riled up and emotionally charged from a rally outside municipal hall, roughly 50 workers came from near and far to lend their support to the 29 RMOW workers who are part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees fighting the municipality for more money and no rollback of benefits.

CUPE Local 2010 represents Whistler's wastewater treatment workers, utilities workers and bylaw officers. They have been without a collective agreement for more than two years and have been on limited strike action since mid-February as the talks between the two sides have stonewalled.

Cries of "shame" echoed around the room when Mayor Hugh O'Reilly refused to be drawn into a discussion about the stalled negotiations at the public meeting.

"You know the rules, right?" he asked CUPE Local 2010 President Pete Davidson, cutting him off as he began to ask a question.

"There's a legitimate process (to deal with the negotiations)."

After the meeting O'Reilly further explained his position.

"They have their program to apply pressure on us and that's fine," he said. "My response is that you don't negotiate in a public forum. That's not how negotiations go. They know that and we know that."

That didn't stop Davidson from getting up to speak out about the faltering negotiations. Nor did it stop Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour representing 750,000 workers, from adding his two cents demanding the municipality respect its workers.

"We will make sure at the end of the day that respect is won," he said.

Even thinly veiled threats from the CUPE B.C. president, Barry O'Neill, failed to elicit the response that CUPE wanted from the mayor, namely that he call municipal staff back to the bargaining table.

"Mr. Mayor I hope you can come to some resolve… because this is really not a struggle of Local 2010 any longer," stated an impassioned O'Neill. "If you think in Whistler that you can take on the labour movement in this community then I wish you the best of luck… (you're in) for the fight of your life my friend."

Talks between the two sides stalled more than two months ago when CUPE members voted to take limited job action in response to a written offer from the municipality.

The union workers are looking for a $4,000 cost of living allowance to offset the high cost of living in a resort community. They are also fighting against the benefit rollbacks in the municipality's written offer.

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