Members of Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 2269 in Squamish, voted in favour of mediator recommendations last Thursday, with about two months remaining in which they can issue a 72-hour strike notice.
“And so we’ll be conveying that message to (Squamish) city council and suggesting that they perhaps reconsider or get back to the table,” said Robin Jones, CUPE regional representative.
“Right now, there’s nothing planned. They said no; we’ve said yes. We’re going to ask the new council because they aren’t the ones who rejected it. It was the old council. We’re going to correspond with the new council and revisit the issues.”
Mayor Greg Gardner said the union has yet to communicate the vote to the District of Squamish.
There are 150 people in local 2269. Those members make up a bulk of Squamish’s municipal employees, whether support staff for the RCMP or municipal hall.
The old collective agreement expired Dec. 31, and the union has been meeting with the District of Squamish since April. According to a report written by mediator Mark Atkinson, numerous issues were resolved as a result of those meetings, though 12 items created an impasse. Benefits, wage increases, job evaluation, vacation carryovers and retirement improvements are a few points of tension.
“After meeting with the parties, I have concluded that they will be unable to resolve these issues themselves,” wrote Atkinson.
Atkinson tabled a set of recommendations, from wage increases to increased benefits. According to Jones, the district rejected those recommendations. The union accepted them.
“I’m not sure where we go,” said Jones. “It’s unusual for people to reject independent third part recommendations. It’s not something you run into everyday. Usually if the mediator says this is a fair deal, people accept it.”
Former Mayor Ian Sutherland, who was still sitting when the union voted to apply for 72-hour strike notice, denied media reports that the issue was a result of weakened district finances.
“We’re trying to negotiate a contract that’s both fair to our employees and responsible to the taxpayers who are paying for our salaries,” he said. “We’re looking at comparable wage rates in various communities. It’s nothing to do with out finances.”
Mayor Greg Gardner could not be reached for comment.