Whitehorse Daily Star

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Myles Dolphin and Steve Geick

Mediation sees last-minute tentative pact

Just 2 1/2 hours before approximately 350 city workers had been slated to walk off the job at 8 a.m. today, the union and management reached tentative agreements.

By Stephanie Waddell on April 16, 2018

Just 2 1/2 hours before approximately 350 city workers had been slated to walk off the job at 8 a.m. today, the union and management reached tentative agreements.

The agreements would be for the transit union and for the city’s main union representing most city workers (aside from firefighters).

In a press release issued this morning, Steve Geick, the Yukon Employees’ (YEU) president, said the agreement came after two full days of mediation.

Enough progress was made Saturday and Sunday to “warrant a last-ditch push into the early hours of Monday morning,” the release said.

The union had formally issued a 72-hour strike notice on Friday. Job action would have begun this morning following six months of bargaining that saw little progress.

“This has been a long and difficult process for these workers,” Geick said. “No one likes the idea of going on strike, but they were determined to hold their ground.

“This team enjoyed the support of the workforce, and that really helped them stay strong in the face of tough concession demands.

“Everyone is looking forward to getting back to work.”

The city’s main union representing approximately 300 city workers had not yet taken any job action.

A Maintenance of Service agreement was reached only recently outlining what services would be deemed essential in the event of a strike and how those services would be maintained.

Transit is not deemed as an essential service.

Members of that union have been staging work-to-rule action since March 19, with bus cancellations or schedule changes happening many days.

Transit workers had planned to move into full strike mode today with the other union local if a deal had not been reached.

City firefighters, meanwhile, are represented by another union and have not been impacted by negotiations.

For the two unions represented by the YEU, the current agreements ended Aug. 31, 2017. The last round of mediation happened in March, with no agreement reached.

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

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

No details on the tentative agreement were available this morning.

The union said officials would not be available until later this afternoon as members of the negotiating team were resting this morning after being up through the night to work out an agreement.

City spokesman Myles Dolphin said the city and union were set to sign a memorandum of agreement this afternoon with the deal, then put it to union members for a ratification vote.

Details of the deal aren’t expected to be available publicly until members have ratified it.

If union members vote in favour of it, the agreement would go to council for approval through the bylaw process.

Dolphin said the city is “quite happy” that a tentative agreement was reached and a strike has been averted.

The last strike action by city-employed workers occurred when transit workers struck for four months in late 2000 and early 2001.

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