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White Rock workers expected to return to jobs Tuesday

Unionized City of White Rock employees picket outside city hall Monday, the first day of citywide job action. - Tracy Holmes
Unionized City of White Rock employees picket outside city hall Monday, the first day of citywide job action.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes

A historic first strike by City of White Rock workers was effectively over by Saturday, after the 100 employees represented by CUPE 402-01 ratified a new four-year collective agreement.

But city workers were still not back on the job Monday, since the agreement had yet to be ratified by city council, which was expected to happen in a closed meeting Monday night.

Provided the city endorses the agreement, communications officer Shannon Levesque said a schedule for resumption of services would begin Tuesday.

The agreement was reached at the end of two days of mediated bargaining last week.

The strike had proven increasingly unpopular with White Rock residents dealing with mounting piles of garbage and pickets that had blocked pickup of recycling – though prior to announcement of the tentative agreement Friday, Coun. Al Campbell told Peace Arch News he was pleased to see how well the city was coping, noting most public areas were free of visible waste.

The first strike by city workers in White Rock's history began with selected job action on May 1, followed by a full citywide strike on May 12.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin said in a news release Friday afternoon that a tentative agreement meant "we are closer to our employees returning to work and resume delivering the excellent public services our residents expect and deserve. As we have said from the start, we wanted an agreement that is fair, affordable and allows the city to continue to provide the cost-effective and efficient service our residents depend on all day, every day."

Local 402-01 president Mike Guraliuk said in a news release Saturday afternoon that the strike had made it clear that workers were serious about the issues on the bargaining table.

"We understood that job action is hard on White Rock residents," Guraliuk said, noting that while the union had "made some important gains" it also moved significantly on its position and was flexible in finding common ground.

Guraliuk said a vote held Saturday resulted in 80 per cent acceptance.

The agreement, which covers the period from Jan. 1 2012 to Dec. 31 2015, "mirrors Metro Vancouver regional settlements," the union said. It includes wage increases effective Jan. 1 of each year covered, starting at 1.25 per cent for 2012, rising to 1.75 per cent for 2013 and 2014, and reaching two per cent in 2015.

Also negotiated was an increase to pay for part-time and casual employees – in lieu of health benefits – to 11 per cent of earnings from the previous eight per cent.

In the area of long-term disability, the city has agreed to provide the necessary information to facilitate a union-administered, employee-paid plan.

Workers also benefit from removal of an age limit for orthotics coverage, a vacation-pay adjustment based on earnings, when they exceed regular annual pay, and increases in "dirty" pay rates for sewage-related work

One issue of the striking workers – establishment of clear hours of work for all employees – was not resolved in the compromise agreement, but Guraliuk said it will be a priority in the next round of bargaining.

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