CAMPBELL RIVER – Contract talks have broken off between Campbell River and its CUPE city workers. The mediated talks stalled this week over wages.
Despite the two sides being very close to a deal, the City is now forcing a ‘final offer vote’ directly on the local union membership. CUPE Local 401 President Blaine Gurrie says that forcing a direct membership vote amounts to trying to circumvent the spirit of the collective bargaining process. “The place for negotiations is at the negotiating table and we feel strongly that this move will only further erode the respect we have been trying to build with the City,” says Gurrie.
“In light of the city’s move, we will be filing 72-hour strike notice. We expect to initiate a ban on overtime work, but we aren’t ruling out a full blown city-wide walkout to press for a negotiated settlement, says Gurrie, adding that “the last thing we want to do is interrupt city services, but the City’s action has left us with no other choice.” A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night of the 160 CUPE local members to discuss next steps.
CUPE 401 members in Campbell River have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2013. In the last round of bargaining, the union accepted a zero wage increase in the first year on the understanding that wages would be adjusted once the city was out of its financial difficulties. Now that the City has run successive surpluses, the union is asking for a modest 2% increase per year – in line with settlements in neighbouring Vancouver Island communities and well below the Canadian average annual wage increase of 3%. In real terms, 2% increases just keep pace with inflation – anything less amounts to a wage cut.