Whitby staff could strike Oct. 14, garbage pick-up and rec centres among services impacted

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Published October 13, 2023 at 1:57 pm

Whitby town staff are poised to begin a strike tomorrow unless their union and the town come to a last-minute agreement.

The town and the municipal workers’ union, CUPE Local 53, have been in negotiation for a new contract since March. After 15 days of negotiations throughout that time, both parties will be in a legal strike and lockout position on Oct. 14.

A provincial conciliator was brought in for four days of bargaining, but the parties remained at an impasse on Sept. 27. The town then asked the conciliator for a “no board” report which started the countdown to the strike.

Negotiations continued on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12, however, the town and the union remain unable to come to terms.

The town said they’ve put forward a proposal “has modified its proposal to ensure there is minimal change for current employees and provide needed flexibility required to respond to changing community needs in the future.” They’ve also put forward a 9.5 per cent wage increase for CUPE’s 300 workers over the next three years.

The town said it “has modified its proposal to ensure there is minimal change for current employees and provide needed flexibility required to respond to changing community needs in the future.”

This “flexibility” is a major sticking point for the union, per CUPE Local 53 President Rob Radford who stressed, “Instead of giving us a good explanation for why the employer needs full control to make members work an indefinite number of temporary assignments and the power to eliminate current shift schedules, wreaking havoc on our quality of life, among other things, we’ve gotten nothing.”

We are committed to achieving a fair and reasonable agreement that balances the needs of our workforce and Whitby residents,” said Whitby Chief Administration Officer Matt Gaskell on Sept. 27, “Unfortunately, earlier today, CUPE Local 53 Full-time rejected our latest offer on the table, which includes wage increases and benefit improvements.”

We continue to seek changes to the existing limitations regarding temporary positions and employees, changes to non-standard hours of work for a limited number of staff, and improved flexibility in the scheduling of staff (with consultation and notice) to modernize and better support the Town’s program and service delivery,” Gaskell continued.

However, the union disagreed saying Whitby, “wants to force an indefinite number of temporary assignments on members; and wants shift schedules where workers would be made available over a greater period of time, which could mean compressed work weeks, split shifts, and rotating shifts. This will have a dramatic impact on families and their quality of life.”

“They need to be made aware that this is a bad deal. And we deserve better. That’s why we’ll be attending council meetings to make our voices heard; emailing and calling elected representatives; and letting residents of Whitby know about the services we deliver and that we deserve better than precarious work and unstable shifts,” CUPE concluded.

Issues that faced town staff during the COVID-19 pandemic are coming to a head in these negotiations. In prior budget discussions from 2021 Gaskell said the town was risking staff burnout thanks to pandemic layoff and the town’s numerous projects. This is the first contract negotiation since.

If the union does strike, it will shutter numerous town services such as garbage pick-up, marriage services, recreation centres and more. “In the event of a labour disruption, the delivery of Whitby’s public services and programs will face interruption. In anticipation of a possible disruption, the Town has started contingency planning to limit service disruptions as best it can. Critical services will continue in a modified way. Non-critical services, like recreation programs and special events, will be impacted.”

The town said all the following services and more would be impacted;

  • Animal Services
  • Building Permits
  • Business Licensing
  • By-Law Enforcement
  • Council and Committee Meetings
  • Garbage Collection
  • Marriage License and Civil Marriage Ceremonies
  • Parks and Recreation Programming
  • Road, Sidewalk and Traffic Operations and
  • Special Events
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