After issuing 72-hour strike notice Wednesday, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 882B went into full-blown strike Monday afternoon.
The union agreed on Friday to resume negotiations on Monday, took job action Saturday afternoon through Sunday, and then walked away from the negotiating table Monday morning.
“We had a promise to meet with the city to go over our proposals,” union president Adrian David insisted, adding he and union business manager Saundra Taylor drove up to Williams Lake Sunday from Vancouver.
“We get there this morning and they say we’re only going to bargain about our proposals and then we’ll talk about yours.”
The union has signed off more than 80 of the city’s proposals so far, David said.
“We want to sit down at the table and bargain some of our proposals. There aren’t many left. We want to get a deal and we want to keep people working.”
Taylor said she felt like she’d been duped.
“Why would you call us back? I asked them. We took the pickets down this morning to bargain in good faith, but they’re back up now.”
One of the contending issues is that management’s health and welfare plan differs from the one union employees have.
The plans gives management paid leave at 100 per cent pay for up to six months, while the union’s allows for leave pay of 66 per cent.
“In their press release the city said the plan was fair and yet they’ve opted for a different plan,” Taylor commented.
Another issue is the current per diem rate of $60 a day.
“They told us they have to go to city council to discuss per diem rates so we told them call an emergency meeting. Offer us something, counter us, ” Taylor said.
David said the city can’t sustain certain provisions within the collective agreement, which made him wonder if “something’s gone wrong with the finances of the city.”
Many municipalities are under financial crunch because of costs being downloaded to municipalities, acting chief administrative officer Geoff Goodall responded.
“We’re all in the same boat. There are some provisions in the agreement that aren’t sustainable and we need some movement on them.”
Goodall also said the city has talked about a number of the union’s proposals, and offered a number of counter proposals last Wednesday.
“They signed off on the three that benefitted them and then walked out. We want to negotiate an agreement, but it takes discussion,” he said.
If employees are lawfully on strike their health and welfare benefits normally provided directly or indirectly by the employer to the employees must be continued if the trade union tenders payment to the employer.
The city said it will keep the employees on benefits if the union pays for them.
At this point there is no indication when the two parties will resume negotiations.