Potential strike concerns complex user group

A looming city union worker strike is causing unrest with Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex user groups.

A looming city union worker strike is causing unrest with Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex user groups.

Particularly, the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association is concerned that if the city’s International Union of Operating Engineers do strike and that an agreement can’t be reached in a timely fashion, its hockey season will be lost.

On Friday the city, via its CMRC Facebook page, posted a release explaining what will happen should the city’s union workers strike, who voted 95 per cent in favour of job action during a recent vote.

“The union which represents the workers at the CMRC will be in a lawful position to strike when the labour relations board has set essential service levels and the union has provided the city 72 hours strike notice,” the post says.

“Should there be job action by city employees the CMRC will be completely closed until it is resolved, and possibly for some time after while we get things going again.”

A closure, if it occurs, would affect all programs and services offered by the CMRC including the arenas, the Sam Ketcham Memorial Pool, the Gibraltar Room, recreation programs, swimming lessons, after-school programs, public swimming, public skating and more.

Mike Rispin, president of the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association, in a letter addressed to Williams Lake Mayor Kerry Cook, said the WLMHA provides hockey for more than 450 kids in Williams Lake and the surrounding area and added it would be a travesty for the kids if they have to cancel part or all of the remaining season.

“It has come to our attention that if the city workers provide 72 hours notice of a strike that it would be the intent of the city to start the process of removing the ice immediately due to a lack of ability to keep the plant running in the event of a strike,” the letter states.

“I think it’s very important to let you know of the impacts this will have both on the city, the WLMHA, and the kids of this city and district.”

He said the bantam tier 2 playoffs, the bantam female playoffs, the bantam tier 2 tournament, the atom development tournament and the last month and a half of its house season will likely be lost, along with any revenue associated with those events, without any ice.

John Dube, service representative for the IUOE, said over the weekend, however, the union did approach the city asking to allow its ice operators at the CMRC to continue to manage the ice so it doesn’t need to be removed.

“We feel it’s just not fair for the user groups so we’re trying to minimize the disruption,” Dube said, adding the city agreed to allow the union’s ticketed ice operators to enter the CMRC to operate the refrigeration plant in the building during a strike.

“Although the [CMRC] and its operators will not be deemed essential it will mean at least we’ll keep the ice in the arena and if we do go on strike — which we hope we won’t — at least the ice won’t come out.”

Rispin, in response, said it’s good news; however, still hopes a creative solution can be reached so the WLMHA’s players won’t be affected at all by the potential closure.

“Our kids work so hard to get those home-ice advantages for playoffs,” Rispin said. “Both our boys and girls [bantam rep] teams. We had to send an e-mail to Prince George [Monday] morning to ask if they’d be willing to host our home-ice advantage, and that just hurts.

“At the end of the day I want our kids to be able to play in their own house. I want our rep kids to be able to play in their own house, and I want our house players to be able to finish their season on a positive note. All of a sudden shutting it down to just end it hurts morale, and hurts people.”

Dube said bargaining meetings with the city are in place to resume in the near future.

“We’re trying our best to resolve this,” Dube said, adding it’s still unclear when, if it happens, a strike notice would be served. “Striking will be our very, very last option.”

The city could not be reached for comment before press time.

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