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November 15, 2013

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City of Prince George pushing for strike: CUPE

PRINCE GEORGE – After nearly a year of contract negotiations there is still no collective agreement in place for city workers and CUPE 399 president Gary Campbell says it looks like the City is now trying to push CUPE members into a strike.

“The City of Prince George seems to have waged a public war on their own employees, the very people who provide front line services and make Prince George an attractive place to live, work and visit—and invest,” said Campbell. “It started with the hugely expensive bogus ‘core review’ process, which aimed to devalue public services in our community and has continued through the bargaining process. It looks like the City would rather take a confrontational and divisive approach rather than meaningful discussions that would lead to an agreement that’s fair and reasonable for taxpayers and civic workers alike.”

“Taxpayers should also be concerned that the City has hired an expensive, high-profile lawyer from Vancouver to conduct negotiations on their behalf—the longer this dispute goes on the more she is paid.”

Janet Bigelow, president of CUPE 1048, adds that while the two Prince George CUPE Locals negotiated wage increases higher than inflation rates in the last round of negotiations, but that in the early 2000’s wage increases were below the rate of inflation.

“When you’re in bargaining you can’t predict the future, but when CUPE and the City negotiated the last collective agreement those were the wage increases both parties agreed were fair and reasonable. And they were in line with settlements in many communities across the north.”

“The Mayor thinks our members should earn less—and contribute less to Prince George’s local economy as a result. But there’s a double standard at City Hall. From 2008 to 2012 the City Manager’s salary increased by 27 percent which is significantly higher than any CUPE member’s wage increase. It’s tempting to spin the numbers to your advantage, but at the end of the day that isn’t getting us closer to an agreement, and that’s what citizens want,” said Bigelow. “Prince George citizens don’t want a strike. CUPE members don’t want a strike. But it looks more and more like that’s exactly what the folks running City Hall want.

“We remain hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement without any disruption in services.  We remain committed to negotiating a fair and reasonable contract for our members and we hope that doesn’t involve job action.”

CUPE 399 and 1048 members overwhelmingly rejected the City’s last contract offer in September, and provided negotiators with a strong strike mandate.  CUPE is required to provide 72 hours notice to the BC Labour Board prior to launching any job action. 

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