CASTLEGAR – City council candidates heard loud and clear about the bargaining breakdown between the City of Castlegar and its CUPE workers at the Castlegar & District Chamber All-Candidates Forum.
With a number of questions coming to candidates, there was clear support for getting back to the bargaining table and having the mayor and council take some leadership in reaching a fair deal with city workers.
CUPE 2262 president Leford Lafayette said that the union and many of the audience at Thursday’s forum were very disappointed in Mayor Lawrence Chernoff’s apparent lack of commitment to finding a resolution.
“We have a serious and historic bargaining crisis in the city, but Mayor Chernoff doesn’t seem to think that he or council should get involved. Castlegar voters expect our mayor and council to roll up their sleeves and get things done. The buck stops with them and it’s not good enough for the mayor to suggest that someone else should deal with bargaining.”
Lafayette said that questions about the city hiring more managers and contracting out services were also raised at the Chamber Forum, and he noted that these are issues in bargaining. “We certainly did not hear the mayor give any real explanation for why the city needs to add expensive new management positions and contract out work that could be done by in-house city staff.”
Lafayette said that the union thinks that the mayor and councillors need to sit at the table with City negotiators and the union to hear directly from one another, and that this should happen before the election. “We won’t find a resolution if we are not talking to each other. We were very disappointed when the last mediation failed, but CUPE members are ready, willing and able to get back to the bargaining table.”
Key outstanding issues include job security and serious concessions that would undercut CUPE’s ability to properly represent members when disputes arise. The current agreement expired in February 2013. No bargaining has taken place since a second round of mediated talks failed to find a resolution September. The union has been engaged in limited job action in the form of a ban on overtime since August 19, 2014. CUPE 2262 represents 34 members working as inside and outside workers in Castlegar.