Strike averted as Lake Cowichan staffers accept four-year contract

Unionized workers receive retroactive raises, keep floater holiday, gain minor benefits under deal ratified by council and staff Tuesday

Town of Lake Cowichan staffers and council averted a strike by ratifying a four-year contract Tuesday night.

Workers had served council a 72-hour strike notice last Wednesday.

But Tuesday saw members vote to accept retroactive raises, and to keep their cherished annual floater holiday, by inking the four-year deal with town council Tuesday.

Town chief administrator Joe Fernandez said his 16 employees, members of the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937, voted 64 per cent in favour of the deal retroactive to June 15, 2013.

“Council voted in favour of that (acceptance) also,” he said.

Terms give Lake Cowichan’s inside and outside workers a 45¢ per hour wage hop, retroactive to June 15, 2013.

Starting June 15, 2014 , they receive a 1% per hour raise — and will get a 1% raise every six months until the contract expires on June 2017, he explained.

Town employees earned an average or $28.15 an hour before the new deal.

They will receive no increase in pensions, but did gain some minor additions to their benefits, Fernandez noted.

The contract followed a year of talks that eventually crumbled.

On May 30, USW members voted 88% in favour of strike action.

June 5 saw the USW bargaining committee given what a union release called an ultimatum: accept the town’s May 27 offer, before end of day June 14, or the entire raise for the first year would drop to zero.

Things changed by June 24 and the worker vote on accepting the town’s terms.

“The Town of Lake Cowichan’s USW workers have accepted a tentative collective agreement with a 64 per cent in favour vote. While relieved strike action has been avoided, the result suggests there is still work to be done in the work environment,” said union business agent Chris Cinkant in a press release. “We are hopeful both parties can work together to rebuild a good and productive relationship in the immediate future. The now ratified Collective Agreement should be the first step in that direction.”

Lake Cowichan council is seemingly pleased a deal has been reached at long last.

“It was a difficult negotiating process but we are pleased to reach agreement so together with our employees, council could move forward with the important work it has planned for this and future years and achieve our goals of providing quality service to our residents,” said Mayor Ross Forrest.

 

 

-with files from Ross Armour

 

 

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