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Strike by Edmonton city, library workers averted as tentative deal reached

Hours after a planned strike by more than 5,000 Edmonton city workers was averted Thursday, the city and the union have reached a tentative deal.

The labour dispute had threatened to trigger widespread service shutdowns, close city attractions and hamper the daily business of city hall.

The deal, if ratified, would provide a new collective agreement for more than 5,000 front-line, administrative and clerical workers represented by Civic Service Union 52.

About 680 Edmonton Public Library (EPL) staff, who also have been without a contract since 2020, came to a tentative agreement Thursday night. 

“We can confirm that Civic Service Union 52 and Edmonton Public Library have reached a tentative agreement. There will be no labour disruption at this time,” reads a statement from CSU 52 president Lanny Chudyk.

More details are expected to be released Friday.

A statement from Pilar Martinez, CEO of EPL, says branches will remain open.

“While this tentative agreement must be ratified by EPL’s union members, we are delighted that Edmontonians may continue to access all EPL services while this process is underway.”  

The deals will remain tentative until members have a chance to vote on and ratify the offer.

With a vote pending, plans for a large-scale strike have been called off.

More details on the city worker’s are expected once both parties have had a chance “to review the fine print,” said union spokesperson Jenny Adams. 

“We can now share that the union and the city met last night to continue bargaining, which has now resulted in a memorandum of agreement that we will be presenting to our members for ratification,” the union said in a statement earlier Thursday.

Information sessions and a ratification vote are expected to happen next week.

The union is recommending that its members accept the deal but has not commented on what is being offered. 

In a joint statement, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and city manager Andre Corbould said the city will not be releasing any details about the agreement until ratification is complete.

“While we cannot predict the outcome of the ratification, we are pleased that Edmontonians will continue to receive high-quality programs and services while this process unfolds,” the city said. 

Negotiations between EPL management and the union were expected to continue Thursday afternoon. 

Strike averted

In all, around 6,000 union members were expected to walk off the job Thursday. But hours before picket lines were expected to form, the city and the union announced they would return to the bargaining table.

In a joint statement Thursday morning, city manager Andre Corbould and union president Lanny Chudyk said the 72-hour strike notice served to the city on Monday would be amended so that the new time for the start of a strike would be 11 a.m. Friday.

News of the negotiations came hours after the city said talks were at an impasse and the union criticized administration for refusing to return to bargaining after talks broke down.

Edmontonians had been warned to brace for what could be a prolonged work stoppage and the disruptions it would cause.

At a news conference Wednesday, Corbould said Edmontonians should be prepared for disruptions. He said the strike would lead to delays and service shutdowns but with the budget constraints faced by the city, administration was not prepared to budge on its latest offer.

The workers serve in more than 250 different positions in dozens of departments within the city’s purview. They include 911 dispatchers, 311 operators, front desk managers, city clerks as well as communications and IT staff.

They have not had a wage increase since 2018 and have been without a contract since 2020.

Wages have been at the centre of the labour dispute, and both sides haved remained firmly entrenched.

The union repeatedly rejected the city’s offer of a 7.25 per cent wage increase over five years. 

Meanwhile, administration officials maintained that their latest proposal was fair and equitable.

In a joint statement Tuesday, council members threw their support behind administration, suggesting that accepting the union demands would strain the budget and trigger steep tax hikes. 

Chudyk met with Sohi on Tuesday but said no progress was made.

The strike was considered a last resort, Chudyk said Wednesday. 

“We do not want this strike to happen,” he said. “What we want is a fair and equitable deal for CSU 52 members.” 

The last strike by the Civic Service Union was in 1976.

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