QUALICUM BEACH - The mayor and council of this seaside Vancouver Island community celebrated the British Columbia Day weekend by locking out their 75 municipal workers. More than 100 vocal CUPE Local 401 members and their supporters were on hand outside the town hall when the lockout officially took effect at 3pm Friday.
The issue is wages. The town is refusing to give its workforce the same 2 percent annual increase reached in every neighbouring municipality. The employees, 20 of them seasonal workers, have been without a contract since 2013. The local initiated an overtime ban last week in order to push for a settlement while remaining on the job serving the community.
CUPE 401 Acting President Laurence Amy told the crowd that despite the council's unwillingness to negotiate a fair deal, the union remains open to returning to the bargaining table. "Our priority is a fair deal and that any impact on the citizens of Qualicum Beach be kept to a minimum." Amy pointed to a much more cooperative past relationship between the town and its unionized workforce where grievances were nonexistent and negotiations were cooperative and respectful. There has never been a strike or lockout in Qualicum beach before this.
Calling the lockout totally unnecessary, CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer Paul Faoro said the council has not just launched a dispute against the local workers "but against all 85,000 CUPE members across British Columbia." He also pointed to the impact this lockout will have on seasonal employees, many of whom are students. Faoro brought greetings and support from National CUPE President Paul Moist, who wrote that "this lockout is not about affordability of a wage increase, it is about an employer flexing their muscles to have their way."
CUPE 401 members will now be picketing at several sites including the town hall, airport, parks yard, civic centre, community centre and works yard. The town has closed its public washrooms and garbage won't be picked up.
Visit the CUPE BC gallery to view photos of the rally.COPE 491