International Union of Operating Engineers Local 882B representing city workers in Williams Lake says there is no use going to mediation right now.
“Mediation is a tool that both sides use after they’ve negotiated in good faith. There are some items that you end up with that you cannot agree on, that’s when you go to mediation to try and resolve those points,” said union representative John Dube Wednesday.
“But we’re not even close to that because every time we go back to the table and they say they want to negotiate, their stance hasn’t changed.”
Union business manager Saundra Taylor said the union did go to mediation to establish essential service levels because the two sides could not agree, but agreed with Dube saying the two sides are not at a stalemate so mediation is not the answer.
“All they have to do is start dealing with our proposals and giving us some incentive. They want to deal with all of their proposals and then they’ll deal with ours. We only have about five or six proposals left on the table,” Taylor said.
The city is adamant the union take roll backs, Dube added.
“They tell us that parts of the collective agreement are not sustainable anymore, while they keep giving themselves raises and bettering their benefits at any given time.”
The union said it has signed off on approximately 80 employer presented proposals and come up with “creative” solution to most of the employer’s demands
“Over the last few years we’ve been signing off agreements with the understanding that they would all go into the collective agreement,” Taylor said.
Mayor Kerry Cook said the strike is unfortunate and that she wants to the two sides to get back to the table.
“I really believe having a third party would benefit moving the discussions forward,” she said.
Around 60 people, most of them city union workers, attended the city council meeting Tuesday to see whether council would discuss the strike.
It wasn’t on the agenda, but Mayor Kerry Cook addressed the crowd at the beginning, acknowledging it was very clear people were upset.
Wednesday morning Cook said it was apparent there is a lot of uncertainty and a lot of misinformation being circulated.
“We are committed to clarify information so people can be informed,” she said, adding the city is willing to negotiate and wants a fair agreement for its workers.
“There are outstanding issues that need to be addressed and the sooner the union gets back to the table, the sooner we’ll be able to work through these issues.”
It’s a situation that isn’t easy for either side.
“At the end of the day we will get through this and how we get through this is up to us as individuals. At the end of the day we’re all going to have to get back and work together. I urge us to be respectful of each other and of the process.”