Unionized workers at Central Cariboo Disposal Services Ltd. in Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and Merritt rejected a proposed new collective agreement in December.
Paul French, first vice-president of United Steelworkers Local 1-2017, said the union will now meet with members to find out why they voted no and to hold strike votes at each meeting so the union will know if workers are willing to take that step.
In advance of the collective agreement expiring in June 2019, the union and the company began negotiations back in March.
“It was a challenge from day one,” French said of the bargaining. “We called in mediation and then came up with what we thought was a passable agreement.”
Vince Benner, general manager of the Central Cariboo Disposal, said the company was surprised the membership voted against the proposal and that the vote was ‘fairly’ close.
“I think there are probably some minor things that could be adjusted that the union and us were clearly unaware that our employees wanted or we would have been talking that in negotiations,” Benner said.
“We are very optimistic that once the union has a chance to meet with our group and we find out what the sticking points are we can address them and move forward.”
Benner said the employees are a ‘great group of people’ and the company ‘wants to do right by them.’
“We just need to know exactly what it is that they did not like about the proposal. I feel confident with a couple of little tweaks we are going to reach an agreement that makes everybody happy.”
French said there are 53 unionized employees working for Central Cariboo Disposal in the three communities and the union will travel to all three communities to meet with its members.
“Once we know the main reasons for the rejection of the proposal we intend to meet with the employer in an attempt to get something the membership will agree on,” he added.
Central Cariboo Disposal was started about 40 years ago and is presently owned by Benner, Lance Marshall and Dave Engman.
The company does recycling, curbside pick up and runs landfills for local governments, including the Cariboo Regional District and the Thompson Nicola Regional District.
“We have grown a lot in the last five or six years,” Benner said.