The United Steelworkers Local 1-405 ratified a new collective bargaining agreement on Tuesday evening that was recently negotiated with the City of Kimberley.
The previous contract, which expired in March, led to tense negotiations between the two sides that escalated with a strike mandate from the union and threats of a lockout from the City.
However, both sides were able to come to a tentative agreement on Aug. 30, which was confirmed with union support at Tuesday evening’s ratification vote.
Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick said he is pleased to see the process come to a close.
“It’s always difficult to get to the middle ground when you’ve got two parties that have goals they need to achieve,” McCormick said. “The negotiations were tense for a period of time, but that’s because both parties were focusing in on those goals.
“We’ve managed to arrive at a place where both parties feel that this compromise is in the best interest of our business and both parties have a vested interest in a well-run business.
“It means great employment for the workers and it means good value for the taxpayers.”
Jeff Bromley, Financial Secretary of the USW Local 1-405 who took the lead in the negotiations, says the union is looking forward to putting the process behind them.
“I think the membership was happy last night to see some closure,” Bromley said. “They’re not all pleased with the process, but I think they’re pleased with collective agreement because in the end, we negotiated it, period.
“There wasn’t anything imposed upon them or something that wasn’t done by themselves and their representatives.”
According to a bulletin release from the union, there were improvements in contract language, benefits and a six-percent wage increase over the tenure of the new four-year agreement.
Other areas include bereavement leave, improved vacation scheduling language, shorter probationary period, improved dental, among others.
The S.E.S. Job Evaluation System was one of the most contentious sticking points of the negotiation, as the city wanted to scrap it, while the union was concerned it’s removal would allow the employer to change jobs, descriptions and duties as they saw fit without consultation from the union.
“The biggest outstanding issue was the Job Evaluation System and the attempt by the employer to rip it out of the collective agreement,” said Bromley.
“But we managed to keep it in the current job evaluation and agreed to negotiate a brand new one that serves both parties.
“I agree there was some issues with the existing Job Evaluation System, but just to work together to create a new one — that’s what we do also. As long as there’s some protective measures within the collective agreement, we were okay with that and we achieved that.”
Special Vacation privileges were also extended for eligible employees at the Aquatic Centre, however, new employees will not be eligible now that the ratification is complete, a point Bromley called both a win and a loss.
For his part, McCormick also agreed that the two main sticking points were the S.E.S. Job Evaluation System and the Special Vacation provisions of the contract.
“For the past 18 months, almost two years that this particular council has been in place, efficiency and getting the best value for the taxpayer dollar that we’re spending has been a focus,” McCormick said.
“Before you go and raise taxes, you’d better make sure that you’re doing the best possible job you can at getting the best value for the money that’s being spent.
“The reality is that with the union contract, there are certain terms or language in the contract that has an impact on how managers are able to manage the business.
So we had some things in that contract that we wanted changed in order to be more efficient at managing the business.”