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Waste strike continues into second week

Union and Carney’s clash over wage increases, among other things

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Residents can still drop off their garbage, but should keep their recycling at home as a strike by garbage truck drivers and mechanics heads into its second week.

"We can’t do all the recycling but we’re doing the garbage and the critical things that make it safe for the health of humans and bears," said Carney’s Waste Systems owner Owen Carney while taking a break from driving a garbage truck Wednesday.

Strike action began last week and, despite all-day mediation in Vancouver Tuesday, Carney’s and their striking employees are still at odds.

"We did not find a deal at the end of the day," said Don Swerdan, the members’ representative for the Operating Engineers Local 115.

He said roughly 70 per cent of the 30 employees voted against Carney’s offer.

"(The latest offer) still has not addressed the integral issues that we say have to be addressed and the guys are resolute in their ideals," said Swerdan.

Rotating strike action began last Thursday (Oct. 27) in the Whistler area. When approached that day none of the dozen or so workers standing outside the Whistler landfill would comment.

However, employees were at work in Squamish and Pemberton.

The following day the job action escalated to include all operations in the corridor. That’s when the union was given 72-hour lock out notice. Swerdan said employees have been locked out since 11:30 a.m. Monday.

Carney’s spokesperson Denise Imbeau said: "We have not locked out our employees."

Management is picking up the slack in the meantime, working 14-hour days, seven days a week.

"Everybody’s pitching in," said Carney.

The strike is affecting more than just the workers and Carney’s. Municipal officials and the RCMP are worried that overflowing recycling containers may attract wandering bears.

"We really (want) to encourage people to be extra diligent at this time of the year with the bears," said Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works.

On Wednesday RCMP spokesperson Devon Jones said officers were staying vigilant for any extra bears due to the strike action.

"Police and bylaw are certainly keeping an eye open," he said. "We’re just making sure there isn’t a problem that does arise from this strike."

He has reviewed the police files and at this point there doesn’t appear to be any increase in bear activity due to the garbage strike.

"I haven’t seen an increase in bear calls coming in so I think things are running as smoothly as they can," he said.

The employees have been without a contract since May.

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