Edmonton city workers have voted in favour of a strike mandate after negotiations with city administration reached a stalemate.
In a news release late Tuesday, Civic Service Union 52 said 91 per cent of eligible members have voted in favour of a strike mandate. Voter turnout was 83 per cent, the union said.
Unionized staff at the Edmonton Public Library, covered by a separate collective agreement, are also poised to strike after a separate vote last week. Last Friday, CSU said its members at the library had voted in support of a strike mandate, with 94 per cent voting in favour.
The union represents represents technical, professional, administrative and clerical workers who work for the City of Edmonton. Members include 911 operators, DATS dispatchers, project managers, accountants and clerks. They haven’t had a wage increase since 2018, the union says.
The collective agreement between the union and the city expired in December 2020 but remains in effect until the next agreement is negotiated and ratified. A separate collective agreement, between the union and the library, also expired in December 2020.
“It is clear that city council and administration are out of touch with their employee base,” union president Lanny Chudyk said in a statement.
“Our members have sent a very clear message: they will not settle for an unfair agreement and watch as dollars are continuously misspent without considering those who actually perform the front line, core services on behalf of Edmontonians.”
The union could strike or the vote could trigger a lockout. If either were to happen, one party must serve the other with 72 hours notice before any work stoppage.
On Jan. 15, the union was informed that the city had ended mediation and triggered a mandatory two-week cooling off period.
At the end of that period, the parties have the option of taking strike or lockout action, or continuing to bargain.
Chudyk said members are hopeful the strike vote will pressure the city to return to the bargaining table and that a labour stoppage can be avoided.
Wages have been the major sticking point in negotiations, he said.
“While our members have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a strike mandate, we do not want to have to withdraw our services,” Chudyk said in the statement.
“Our goal is still to reach a fair and equitable settlement at the negotiation table that supports our members and taxpayers.”
City offering 7.25% over 5 years
In a statement Friday, the city said it had put forward a “best and final offer” to members that would provide a 7.25 wage increase over a five-year period between 2021 and 2025.
“It has always been the city’s goal to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable for CSU 52 members, the city and taxpayers,” said Michelle Plouffe, the city’s chief people officer. “We believe our offer represents this balance and should avoid any potential strike or lockout.”
Plouffe said the city does not plan to lock out union members but has applied for a lockout poll. The application would allow the city to trigger a lockout if needed during a strike, to minimize disruption to city services, she said.
Administration has also applied for an employer proposal vote be conducted by the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) to determine whether union members wish to accept the latest offer.
“We know that if CSU 52 members strike, there will be impacts to city services,” Plouffe said. “Both the extraordinary application to the ALRB and the service planning work happening internally are being done with the sole intent of minimizing any impacts from potential disruptions.”
The offer affects about 5,000 city staff, largely office staff providing professional, educational, business and other front-line services, the city said.
The City of Edmonton employs the full-time equivalent of 11,500 to 13,000 workers, depending on the season.
Union officials are holding a news conference at 11:30 a.m. MT Wednesday outside city hall.
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