Summer of labour unrest

City of Kimberley will ask union members to vote on last offer

  • Aug. 12, 2016 8:00 p.m.

CAROLYN GRANT

The City of Kimberley and United Steelworkers Local 1-405 made one more attempt at mediation this past Tuesday, August 9 but were unable to reach an agreement. Both sides of the labour dispute put out press releases this week. The union release stated that talks had stalled and no new talks were scheduled.

City of Kimberley CAO Scott Sommerville said in his release that the City has asked for a vote by the employees to accept or reject the City’s last offer.

“If the employees’ vote favours acceptance of the last offer, the terms of the last offer will become the new collective agreement between the parties. The City will be providing copies of the complete offer directly to the employees, with a provincially-supervised election process to follow.”

Jeff Bromley, 1-405 Negotiator says the City is within its rights to ask for the vote.

“Under the B.C. Labour Code, Section 78, the employer has one time they can go to the membership on a final offer or best offer vote,” Bromley said Wednesday. “We caught wind of it last night. The committee expected it but we still have to agree on a date for the vote.

“They have the right to do that but that doesn’t change our opinion of the last offer. We don’t think that will change with the membership either.”

Bromley says the negotiating committee will meet with membership before the vote but he doesn’t know the timing yet.

“It’s the middle of the holiday season. A lot of people are away, but I’m thinking it will take place in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

In the meantime, nothing else will happen.

“They’ve applied for Section 78, so nothing happens until the vote happens,” Bromley said. “We’re going to advise our membership reject the offer.”

Mayor Don McCormick said he hoped members would feel differently and take a good look at the City’s offer.

“We are trying to find a solution for both the city and the union employees,” he said. “Everyone is going to get an increase in both wages and benefits. We believe it’s a very fair offer for the employees and that they are going to like it.”

The reality is, the Mayor says, that there are clauses in the current contract that hinder the city’s ability to manage its business in an efficient manner.

“These are difficult times, financially, for the City of Kimberley. We are trying to balance three things — the accountability to residential and businesses taxpayers, the City’s $73M infrastructure deficit, and what council sees as a fair offer to the employees — and it’s not easy. We are trying to find the best deal for employees and still protect the taxpayer. We’re going to have to get some compromise.”