Unionized workers reach tentative deal with town

If membership ratification is passed, there will be no strike by town workers

Despite a strike notice being issued, the Town of Lake Cowichan’s chief administrative officer is hoping the town’s workers will not go on strike now.

That is because a tentative deal has been struck between the town and the unionized workers.

“At this stage of the game we have a tentative agreement in place with them,” said town CAO Joe Fernandez. “We’ve worked out a settlement and now the union has to get ratification from its members and the town from council (regarding the new proposed contract).”

If the ratification vote fails, it is likely that the town’s workers will go on strike.

Last Wednesday, sixteen town staffers with the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 served a 72-hour strike notice.

Since the end of May, the union’s bargaining committee has been in discussions with Fernandez and Mayor Ross Forrest to no avail, seemingly until now.

Part of the problem is the issue of a floating holiday.

“Employees have always got a floating holiday,” said Fernandez. “Since Family Day came in, the town thought they didn’t need another stat holiday. The agreement now is different to the one that was first proposed, but hopefully it will all get settled.”

Fernandez said that general pay is not an issue and agreed that a strike notice is normally a signal of intent and a serious threat of strike action.

“Pay was never really an issue. We actually pay them better than other communities.”

The floating holiday has been part of the collective agreement since 1977.

Other reported issues in the talks are an RRSP plan for workers aged 60 and older as well as a removal of a year-one wage hike.

On May 30, the union members had voted 88 per cent in favour of strike action.

-with files from Peter Rusland