Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Steve Geick

Nobody wants a strike: city workers’ union

City officials are reviewing their strike plan after the unions representing its workers walked away from conciliation talks last week.

By Stephanie Waddell on March 2, 2018

City officials are reviewing their strike plan after the unions representing its workers walked away from conciliation talks last week.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the city explained it has had a strike plan in place which identifies essential services.

It’s reviewing the strategy to be prepared if the unions – Public Service Alliance of Canada Locals Y022 and Y023 – move to a labour disruption.

“When the union walked away from talks, there was a significant gap between the economic ask of the unions and what the employer could offer,” the city said.

“The city feels the proper place to discuss these issues is at the bargaining table, not in the media, and we would welcome the opportunity to continue talks.

“The city is currently attempting to work with the unions to designate essential services in order to ensure the health and safety of Whitehorse citizens.”

Steve Geick, the president of the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU), said he had been surprised to learn the city was looking at its strike plan.

There’s currently a 21-day “cooling-off” period before the negotiations move into mediation, Geick noted. Dates will soon be set for that.

“Nobody wants to see anybody go on strike,” he said.

Even before the union could strike, he noted, it would need to get authorization from the national organization.

It would then be up to the membership to decide if they wanted to strike, and a vote would be taken.

Geick noted job action could take many forms outside of a typical strike.

It could mean information pickets to make others aware of the issues. Or, it could be different departments withdrawing services on differing days – or any other number of initiatives.

Geick also pointed out that an essential services agreement would have to be drawn up to determine which roles would keep working in the interest of public health and safety.

While the city endured a 16-week bus strike beginning at the end of 2000, Geick said to his knowledge, there has never been a strike of Y023 city employees.

He expects mediation dates will be set for later in March after the 21-day period ends.

Currently, pay scales for employees in both Y022 and Y023 vary by a number of factors such as level of training, experience and so on.

In Y022, transit driver trainees are paid between $27.82 and $28.20 per hour depending on whether they are permanent or casual.

Casual drivers earn between $28.53 and $35.25 per hour depending on classification and experience.

Permanent employees earn between $25.75 and $34.78 hourly, also depending on classification and experience.

Meanwhile, there is a wide range of job classifications and wages for those in Y023, representing about 300 other city workers.

Between the 16 categories for permanent employees working 40 hours a week, employees may earn anywhere from $12.78 per hour, or $26,672 annually, to $52.73 per hour or $110,049 annually, depending on their classification and experience.

Hourly wages for temporary and casual employees in the 16 categories range from $12.35 per hour to $50.89 per hour, also depending on factors like experience and classification.

In a post on its Facebook page Feb. 16, the YEU stated: “The city wants to roll back benefits for its workers equivalent to a wage claw-back, a salary reduction of about two per cent a year.

“They plan to do away with any severance pay except in a layoff, and eliminate long service awards entirely for anyone who hasn’t already qualified – that’s a significant and sudden reduction in compensation.”

It then goes on to highlight wage package details proposed by the city for transit workers, pointing out it offered no increase in pay for six years for anyone who has fewer than four years of service.

“That means no increase for many current and all new workers until 2024,” reads the post.

“Only those transit workers currently at the top of their pay grid would be eligible for any increase during the life of the city’s desired six-year contract; the city wants six years with no pay increase for many transit workers until 2024.

“You can be confident the workers and union were requesting an infinitely more modest pay increase than the 80-per-cent increase council has approved for themselves.”

The pay raise – for the next council to be elected in October – was actually approved Monday in a 4-3 vote by council.

It will come into effect for the next council.

Honouraria for councillors will rise from $20,496 to $36,036 each year to account for income tax changes to council pay, and bring it closer in line with what councillors make in other jurisdictions.

The annual salary for the mayor is set to rise from $87,942 to $101,100 to reflect the change to the tax regime.

Comments (7)

Up 1 Down 1

Josey Wales on Mar 7, 2018 at 1:10 pm

Hey Hugh...I too noticed that. To be fair it is the merchants whom according to our civic overlords cannot put snow there...despite another telling them to remove it or face fines...if they are outta the civic clic.
Any collisions, injuries etc as a result of these nobles orders to us their subjects...should be dumped on CoW for liability.
If they strike I am certain the private sector would pay, 25-30/hr to hand out towels at CGC, plant flowers and put up Christmas lights...would they not?
This community has serious, serious issues, least of which is compensation for striving for mediocre.
The king got his, now his nobles and sycophants want theirs.
“ as long as I get mine “ rebranded according to the epic entitlement.
Tim Hortons may feel it with a strike, our internet will get quicker during the day without searches to end the boredom with our maaaaaaaany chairwarmers.
Gee garbage might collect in the bush, our streets will get choked with snow and ice, people may park however they wish, no rabid meter specialists keeping the coffers of SIMA stocked with cash etc!
Oh wait...we might not even notice a difference?

Up 2 Down 2

Hugh Mungus on Mar 7, 2018 at 11:58 am

@ jc
All your posts complain about government workers. The thing is government workers are the single largest contributor to the economy in the Yukon fueling the vast majority of private sector work. Further, there are plenty of well paying private and public sector jobs if you have a decent combination or education and experience and a decent work ethic. I suspect based on your 'negative Nelly' comment theme you have none of these to offer.

Up 1 Down 1

Hugh Mungus on Mar 6, 2018 at 4:28 pm

I see COW has failed to clear the snow of main street in advance of this strike, it's almost a single lane in front of TD bank when the angle parking is full.

Up 3 Down 0

jc on Mar 5, 2018 at 9:09 pm

I hope they go on strike - for the next 3 years. Might bring down prices to what non -union workers can afford.

Up 5 Down 0

My Opinion on Mar 3, 2018 at 12:21 am

Do you suppose that the massive increases that some councillors and the Mayor gave themselves infuriated this at all? We need the mayor GONE. You can be assured of the fact we won't get a raise and we will pay for all of these guys. By the way the City employees are paid well for what they do. Compare those bus driving wages with Truck Driving in the Private sector.

Up 2 Down 0

Alan Boomer on Mar 2, 2018 at 7:05 pm

Yes, mayor and council deserve higher incomes but they have to make better decisions.

City staff are paid too much in general.

Up 3 Down 0

ralpH on Mar 2, 2018 at 4:20 pm

Again Union and their leadership not living in the real world. COW is not to blame here! Ratepayers are stand up and demanding more fiscal accountability and this is the first step. And no one working at COW is underpaid or hard done by. Just need to cut the perks. Find those in the private sector.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.