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Mountainside strike averted A first-ever collective agreement between unionized employees and management at the Mountainside and Blackcomb Lodges has been tentatively reached and employees are expected to ratify the deal Monday. A strike was narrowly averted when union organizers accepted management's final offer late last week and struck a three-year deal containing wage increases and benefit packages. Silvia Simpson of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, the local representing 27 front desk and housekeeping staff at the hotels, says the union will be holding ratification meetings in Squamish and Whistler Monday. "The union is recommending acceptance of this deal to our members," Simpson says. Details of the contract will not be released until it has been ratified by both parties. David Gadhia, vice-president of the Blackcomb and Mountainside Lodges, says because this was a first contract it was particularly difficult. Now that the unionized employees have their first deal, the relationship between management and employees will forever change as the formal union structure enters the picture. "I don't want to characterize at this stage whether the (employee/management) relations are going to be better or worse, but it's definitely going to be different," Gadhia says. The Canadian Auto Workers union now represents staff at the Tantalus Lodge, the Whistler Fairways Hotel, Listel Whistler Hotel and the Mountainside and Blackcomb Lodges. Gadhia says having to negotiate with a union that is new to the realities of Whistler was very difficult. "They (union negotiators) didn't understand the nature of employment in Whistler in that they didn't have a clue about how transient it gets in Whistler," Gadhia says. The union philosophy of signing up members for life and looking after them, does not apply to Whistler as many employees here are not looking to make careers in the service industry. "A lot of the jobs in Whistler are temporary stepping stones to other careers, but the union negotiators just don't see it that way," Gadhia says. "It was painstaking to educate them."

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