CAMPBELL RIVER - Striking members of CUPE Local 401 have overwhelmingly rejected a ‘last offer’ from the City of Campbell River. In a BC Labour Relations Board supervised vote, the workers rejected the city’s contract terms by more than 3-to-1.
Now that the City-ordered vote is out of the way, CUPE Local 401 President Blaine Gurrie says it’s time to get back to the bargaining table. “We want a fair and reasonable contract, and the way to get that is with both sides sitting down and hammering out a deal.” Gurrie said the union is asking the City to return to the table with a mediator present.
The outstanding issue is wages. In the last round of bargaining, CUPE members accepted a zero wage increase in the first year on the understanding that wages would be adjusted once they helped the city out of its financial difficulties. Now that Campbell River has run three successive surpluses, the union wants a modest 2 per cent per year. So far, the City has balked at matching recent wage settlements seen in municipalities across Vancouver Island.
After talks broke down more than a week ago the union served strike notice and initiated a ban on overtime work. While Gurrie said CUPE hasn’t ruled out a full-blown city-wide walkout, “our priority is to restart meaningful talks and our goal is a fair settlement that will let us all focus on what we do best - serving the public of Campbell River.”
CUPE Local 401 represents 202 inside and outside city employees in Campbell River. Under BC labour law, an employer can force its workers to vote on the last offer it made at the bargaining table before talks broke down. At yesterday’s vote, 77 per cent rejected the City's offer (of the 162 members who voted, 125 voted 'no' and 37 voted 'yes'). Campbell River civic workers have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2013.