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The Canadian Union of Public Employees gained a toehold in municipal hall last week, but whether it’s the start of a union movement or a short-lived victory remains to be seen. After nearly two months of consideration the Labour Relations Board ruled last week that Whistler’s Bylaw department and employees at the waste water treatment plant constituted an appropriate bargaining unit and certified them as members of CUPE. The ruling affects nearly 20 Bylaw department members and about six workers at the treatment plant. The municipality had contested the certification application on the basis that the only appropriate bargaining unit was all municipal employees. CUPE hopes to achieve that. "Certainly our goal is to continue organizing other municipal employees," said Bob Fifik, a national representative with CUPE. While Mayor Ted Nebbeling says the municipality intends to bargain in good faith with the organized employees, he adds that the municipality is reviewing its police force options and one alternative may be to phase out the Bylaw department and hand over those duties to a police force. The RCMP’s presence in the municipality is currently funded by the provincial government. However, once a town achieves a permanent population of more than 5,000 the town assumes financial responsibility for its police force. A national census this spring is expected to confirm that Whistler’s full-time population is more than 5,000. The municipality began investigating policing options late last fall but will not be expected to take over financial responsibility until at least a year from now, when the census results are finalized. Bylaw Superintendent Calvin Logue resigned in December, saying his philosophies and those of his direct superiors were no longer compatible. Senior RCMP officers now oversee the Bylaw department. There have been several attempts to organize municipal employees over the years. Municipal staff has until last week remained non-union, at least in part because the municipality had adopted wage scales similar to those offered by unionized municipalities in the Lower Mainland. A committee representing employees was also established to meet with senior municipal managers regarding working conditions, grievances and other matters. Fifik says the Bylaw department approached CUPE because "The department was in disarray. They were looking for some stability." He also said there were some "long-standing concerns with the employer on a number of issues," although he refused to go into specifics. Fifik said the timing on bargaining for a first contract has yet to be determined. "We’re just certified. We have to sit down with the bargaining unit and elect a negotiating team," he said. As far as specific issues that need to be addressed, Fifik said the union has to sit down with its members to "see what comes to the forefront." He added one CUPE representative will be working with the organized employees and another representative will be working to organize other employees.

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