Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

LABOUR INTERRUPTIONS POSSIBLE – A city bus navigates the potholes in Hillcrest on Tuesday. Both bus service and pothole filling may be adversely affected as soon as Monday morning if city and transit workers opt to strike. Right top: MYLES DOLPHIN Bottom: STEVE GEICK

City strike would disrupt many services

Whitehorse residents may have to look at alternative ways to deal with their transportation needs, waste collection, after-school child care, recreation options and more.

By Stephanie Waddell on April 13, 2018

Whitehorse residents may have to look at alternative ways to deal with their transportation needs, waste collection, after-school child care, recreation options and more.

The union representing about 300 workers from most city departments served strike notice today for 8 a.m. Monday.

The transit union of about 30 workers has also indicated it may ramp up its job action from the current work-to-rule campaign to a full strike.

City firefighters will continue to be on the job, as they are represented by a different union.

Both unions that may take action Monday say negotiations set for Saturday and Sunday will go ahead.

“We’re very hopeful we can get to a deal,” Steve Geick, the president of the Yukon Employees Union (YEU), said in an interview this morning.

Despite serving strike notice, Geick emphasized: “That’s not saying we’re doing this.”

Rather, he said, the notice is in place, and transit has indicated it may ramp up actions only if there’s no movement by the city.

The larger union opted to officially serve the strike notice Thursday afternoon after a strategy call with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (of which YEU is a component) in Ottawa and in consultation with its membership. It was felt, Geick said, that there just wasn’t the trust with the city.

Geick said the city will be in a position Monday morning to lock out non-essential employees but has not given any indication it is prepared to do that.

If progress is made through the weekend negotiations, Geick said there may be no need to take strike action.

However, serving strike notice enables the union to take action Monday if there is no movement forward.

At the same time city and union negotiating teams are meeting with a mediator to hammer out a possible deal, union members will be in training on issues like how emergency services or preventative emergency services will be handled during a strike as well as other strike procedures and the like.

A Maintenance of Activities agreement is now in place to deal with essential services in the event of job action.

It ensures any emergency work or work that would be done to prevent emergency situations would continue.

That would include things like road-clearing for emergency vehicles, equipment repair, and dealing with reports of dangerous animals that are roaming in the city.

Recreation services, including the operation of facilities and programs through the Canada Games Centre, Takhini Arena and the like, such the 3 O’Clock Craze after-school care program and day camps during school professional development days, are not deemed essential.

Neither is garbage and compost pickup, though the landfill is operated by a contractor and is anticipated to remain open during a strike for residents to bring their waste to.

Transit is not deemed essential either, so that union was able to begin its job action March 19.

The work-to-rule campaign has resulted in several delays or cancelled buses many days since then.

In light of the situation, those with monthly bus passes have been able to return their passes to the city and receive a coupon toward a future pass.

Riders weathered a full-scale transit strike that began in late 2000 and ended four months later, in early 2001.

As for whether any such offerings will be made to members of the Canada Games Centre or those who have paid for recreation programs that may be impacted, city spokesman Myles Dolphin said today officials are currently finalizing details.

Asked about the Yukon Invitational Swim Meet that’s scheduled for April 20- 21, Dolphin said “it would certainly be put in jeopardy” if there is a strike.

As of now, the meet is scheduled to go ahead with the pool already set to be closed to the public both days of the meet.

Any change would likely be announced closer to April 20, Dolphin said. The city will continue to use its website and social media pages to update the public on such situations.

The current agreements with the two unions ended Aug. 31, 2017.

The last round of mediation for a new deal happened in March, with no agreement reached.

The union has argued it’s fighting to maintain long-service and severance benefits for future employees.

The city has stated it wants to find a solution that balances the interests of employees with those of its citizens.

Mayor Dan Curtis told the Star this morning that while the city’s team is handling the work of negotiating, he remains hopeful a deal can be reached.

Comments (10)

Up 0 Down 0

Josey Wales on Apr 20, 2018 at 12:29 am

Hey I though our king and his crack team of negotiating commandos, along with the saviors of all humanity...unions, saved the day?
We all know just how our nobles value tax dollars, I am certain every optic...I mean effort was brought forward to save the taxpayers of Whitehorse future tax increases of biblical proportions?
Sorry if I completely vaporized your office/at home sarcasm meter.

Reminder folks, next election...all the alleged nobility and the king should be run off our lands.

Up 2 Down 1

so our roads won't be maintained? on Apr 16, 2018 at 11:06 am

wait wait:
- Steel toe boot allowance
- Generous health pension plans
- Nepotism (what about the old policy two family members can't work in the same department)
- Lifetime membership (10 Year maximum employment terms)
- Paying for tools that the mechanics keep
- No checks on breaks
- wages starting at (for full time employees) 22.50 - 49.99
- overstaffed
- subsidized services (50% off at CGC + Free bus usage (includes family, not just workers)

Yep, that's entitlement.

Up 3 Down 0

north_of_60 on Apr 15, 2018 at 2:34 pm

The entitlement attitude of @YT is so typical of government slackers who always want more benefits at the taxpayer's expense. To complain about unsafe working conditions in today's over-regulated workplace is laughable at the very least. CoW employees should be grateful they have such well paid jobs with such generous benefits. If they think they can do better elsewhere they can quit and move on.

Up 1 Down 3

jason on Apr 14, 2018 at 5:20 pm

Rebecca - the federal government also has a generous pension plan, which city employees do not have. The city also claws back RRSP contributions from their employees salaries as well ... the crux of this is that the city is offering its employees a much worse deal then they currently have. If your employer walked up to you and said that starting tomorrow, you were going to get less pay, benefits etc. for the job you are currently doing, what would you do?

Up 1 Down 2

YT on Apr 14, 2018 at 3:44 pm

Rebecca wrote: "This strike notice is the same equivalent of a bunch of entitled children not being served a hot lunch." Ah yes, let's bring out the entitlement card. Tell you what Rebecca, do you feel you are entitled to:
b-weekend off?
c-safe working conditions?
I could go on, but your analogy is laughable. These "entitlements" as you call them were once not common at all, and were fought for by unions.
I'm not a city employee, and I'm not even a union member, but I can appreciate workers fighting for better wages, benefits etc. If you don't fight for them, you can bet that things will role back pretty quickly.

Up 2 Down 0

Why? on Apr 14, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Why should anybody be entitled to a bonus for quitting?
You want to leave, give notice, work it, get paid and move on.

Up 2 Down 0

Sillig on Apr 14, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Oh no....I won't have a ticket on my windshield....the streets will still be shi**y and taxes will....rise...again

Up 3 Down 0

Rebecca carol on Apr 14, 2018 at 10:03 am

I’m sorry, but I have little sympathy for ‘future employees’ who may not be eligible for long service or severance. The federal government removed those benefits from current and future employees a long time ago, because more things can be done with that taxpayer money. One of the reasons it was easy for them to do so with little public outrage, the average working person isn’t entitled to those perks to begin with. This strike notice is the same equivalent of a bunch of entitled children not being served a hot lunch. Many will argue it effects the total compensation of a pay package, again, we are discussing pay packages for ‘future’ employees, no money is directly being taken away from the people the unions are representing.

In my humble opinion as a private sector employee, this is not the line in the sand I would have drawn. I suspect the employees will not garnish much public sympathy and while the city will be the brunt of ire from the inconvenience of work stoppage, I would be suprised if it is anything but trifling.

Up 2 Down 0

joe on Apr 13, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Go on strike, it's time to review the City services anyway. It appears to be bloated and over subsidized. Good time to do a full review.Start at the top.

Up 2 Down 1

Stan Winter on Apr 13, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Go on strike but the CGC provides an essential service.

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