Update: City manager of human resources Ashley Williston said the Labour Relations Board mediator has booked out, which means the earliest the union can go on strike is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16.
Williston also said the Williams Lake Airport will remain open if there is job action and all scheduled carrier flights will remain in effect.
Negotiations between the City of Williams Lake and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 882-B, which represents the majority of front line city workers, have broken down and the city was issued 72 hour strike notice by the union Wednesday.
In response the city issued the following press release Wednesday evening:
The City of Williams Lake will do everything it can to minimize the effects of this job action on residents and is hopeful that the union will return to the bargaining table, and that this job action can be resolved as soon as possible.
Throughout this negotiation process the city has been attempting to address several key issues we believe are in the best interest of our taxpayers. The City wants to ensure the sustainability of the city’s operations.
One of the city’s key issues under the current collective agreement is call out pay. Employees who are called in for any reason receive eight (8) hours of pay regardless of the length of time they work.
Many of these call outs require an hour, or less, of work. The current cost for overtime is estimated at over $250,000 per year and the large majority of this cost is from this call-out pay. The city has made an offer to the union to address its concerns about call out pay that they feel is more than fair, and in-line with industry standards.
The union currently has 28 positions that are guaranteed no lay-offs in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Although this MOU severely ties the hands of the city to adjust the workforce, especially in shoulder seasons where there is reduced work, and increases overall operating costs, the city has indicated that it is willing to sign this MOU but that it would require movement by the union on the call out pay issue.
A second issue of the city is the requirement to pay for benefits for seasonal employees during periods of lay off. The city feels that this practice is not sustainable.
In its proposals to the city, the union has asked for four (4) additional paid days off which includes two new personal days and two new additional sick days in addition to the eight sick days they already receive. The city has offered to adjust the current sick days that employees receive to allow them to take this time off to care for their children when they are sick.
The union has asked increases to its health and benefit program that would cost the city over $110,000.00 annually, including a Pay Direct Prescription Card. The city has indicated clearly that it would be amenable to offering the Prescription Card to employees. The city feels that the current Health and Welfare package is very fair to employees.
In these negotiations, the city has agreed to increase meal and boot allowances, increase the rates for working foremen and lead hand designated employees as well as employees in positions requiring a journeyman trade certification.
The city felt that significant progress was being made in negotiations on Tuesday and hopes that the union returns to the table. The city has indicated to the union that it is very interested in hearing counter proposals and that it wants to get back to the table as soon as possible. In an effort to resolve this situation as quickly as possible the city has requested mediation through the Labor Relations Board and are awaiting the response from the Union.
In order to maintain as many vital services as possible for the community during this job action, the city applied to the LRB for essential service levels which have been designated. The Labour Relations Board designates those services that are considered essential to the health and safety of the public.
The union and the city have also agreed that the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex’s ice plant will be maintained, but the Complex itself, including the arenas, will be closed to the public for the duration of the job action. All recreation programs and services will be closed and/or cancelled including arenas (ice bookings, rentals, tournaments, leagues, etc.), swimming pool (public swimming, swimming lessons, etc.), Gibraltar Room (rentals, meetings, weddings, etc.), Fitness Centre, Recreation Programs (both on-site and off-site), and the Rec and Roll After School care.
City Hall will be open regular hours during any job action but there will be some reduced services in some areas. To minimize the effects of the job action to the public, exempt and management city staff will be utilized as much as possible to undertake some priority tasks normally performed by union staff.
For after hour emergencies, residents should call the emergency hot line at 250-392-5255.
During the current job action the city will continue to provide updates to the public through the media and city website as much as possible.