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Strike averted as Lake Cowichan staffers accept four-year contract

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.

Administrator Joe Fernandez said his 16 employees, members of the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937, voted 64% 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 hike, 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 in June 2017, he explained.

Town employees earned an average of $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 the end of day June 14, or the entire first-year raise would drop to zero.

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

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