Canada News

Get the latest new in Candada


Union serves strike notice for 5,000 Edmonton city workers, 680 library staff

Around 5,000 city workers in Edmonton are preparing to walk off the job Thursday weeks after negotiations with the city reached an impasse. 

Civic Service Union (CSU) 52 served a strike notice to the City of Edmonton and to the Edmonton Public Library at 11 a.m. Monday.

Picket lines will form Thursday morning, after the 72-hour notice period expires, the union said. 

According to an information posted online, all Edmonton Public Library branches are set to be closed at 11 a.m. on Thursday until further notice. All programs and services will be paused. 

Borrowers are asked to hold onto borrowed items until libraries reopen. 

The union represents about 5,000 people who work throughout the City of Edmonton, along with about 680 library staff, who are covered by a separate collective agreement.

Union members at city hall include technical, professional, administrative and clerical workers, and includes 911 operators, 311 dispatchers, project managers, accountants and clerks.

“The City is disappointed that CSU 52 was unwilling to accept the offer that was put before them. We put forward an offer that is compelling even in light of our current financial realities,” city manager Andre Corbould said in a news release.

“We are prepared to respond to the labour disruption, and contingency plans are in place to minimize service disruptions.”

Corbould said these plans, along with an Emergency Operations Centre, were being activated to maintain core services.

Administration had previously applied for a lockout vote that would allow the city to trigger a lockout during a strike, to minimize disruption to city services. 

Bargaining between the union and the city reached a stalemate last month and since then, talks have stalled. 

In a statement, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he encourages all parties to come to the table to end the labour dispute quickly. He also clarified that Edmontonians will still be able to call 911 during the strike.

“Importantly, though 911 operators are CSU 52 members, I want to stress that contingencies are in place and anyone who calls 911 will be immediately connected with a live person,” said Sohi. 

Stalled negotiations

In a statement Monday, the union said no progress has been made as the city has not returned to the negotiating table. 

Lanny Chudyk, president of CSU 52, said about 6,000 members in total are prepared to walk off the job Thursday.

He said members have felt repeatedly insulted by the city’s unwillingness to budge at the bargaining table.

When the city failed to resume negotiations over the weekend, it was the final straw, he said. 

“It’s frustrating and insulting to my membership,” Chudyk said in an interview Monday.

“And bluntly, it is the City of Edmonton who is putting the public at risk and having the possibility of their services in a whole bunch of areas either being diminished or withdrawn.” 

He said he remains hopeful, however, that the city will return to talks and make a better offer. 

“CSU 52 is simply asking to get back to the table a fair and equitable agreement for my members,” Chudyk said.

“It certainly can be avoided but it can’t be avoided if the other side won’t talk to us.”

At a union news availability after the notice had been served, city fitness instructor Ferah Karmali expressed her disappointment at where things are at.

“Nobody wants to strike. Nobody wishes for that.”

Office co-ordinator Darlene Wood said that it’s been difficult for staff without raises and some are living paycheque to paycheque.

“We don’t want to be on strike,” she said. “It’s so unfair the public has to suffer because we can’t get anybody to listen to us any other way.”

‘Strategy has clearly failed,’ says councillor

Cyndil Taylor, acting chief people officer, said in a statement Monday that the City of Edmonton remains committed to reaching an agreement.

“The offer presented to members is fair and equitable for members, the City and taxpayers,” she said. “We are hopeful we can come to a resolution with the fewest program and service disruptions.”  

Coun. Tim Cartmell posted a statement to social media Monday saying council had been following the advice of the negotiation team to date.

“But that strategy has clearly failed,” he said. “Our unions and their leadership are our partners, not our opponents. We need to work collaboratively to get a contract in place.”

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.

Negotiations began to falter in January, when the union was informed that the city had ended mediation and triggered a mandatory two-week, cooling-off period.

Last month, with talks stalled, union members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate. 

In response, the city applied to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for an employer proposal vote, allowing workers to vote directly on what the city called its “best and final” offer.

The union made the results public last Friday. Most eligible members — 87.6 per cent — voted against the city’s proposal, opening the door to a strike or lockout. 

The biggest sticking point has been wages. The employees affected by the ongoing negotiations have not had a wage increase since 2018.

The city’s latest proposal included a 7.25-per cent wage increase from 2021 through 2025, as well as items such as a commitment to hybrid work.

Chudyk said the impact of a strike would be widely felt by all Edmontonians. Union members manage some of the most critical business of the city, he said.

“The libraries will fully be affected,” he said.  “For the City of Edmonton, CSU members touch every bit of the business, from police emergency communications to the ground level administrative support, for almost every piece of business that gets done.

“It’s regrettable that it has come to this, but our members have been more than patient and fair, asking for what is reasonable after five years of stagnant wages.” 

View original article here Source