By Ezra Black
Employees will retain control of their work schedules, under the terms of a new deal between the City of Fernie and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 2093.
On Nov. 9, the city’s 60 unionized workers overwhelming voted in favour of a strike if a new agreement was not reached.
The vote came after the union rejected the city’s demand that a workers’ schedule be decided between the employee and his or her supervisor without the union’s approval.
CUPE national representative Keith Nielson said the change would have allowed the city to circumvent normal hiring practices. It could also allow the city to compel its employees to work longer or irregular hours.
During pre-Christmas negotiations, Nielson said the city withdrew that request.
“The employer backed away from that demand,” he said. “For the union it was very important.”
The concession helped the City and its unionized workers sign a new five-year collective agreement, replacing the previous contract that expired in February 2015.
On Dec. 20, city council ratified the settlement followed by CUPE on Dec. 22.
The union represents employees at City Hall, Fernie Memorial Arena, Aquatic Centre and the Public Works Department.
Negotiations stalled last June after the resignation of former CAO Jim Hendricks.
The city hired Jay Sharun, a labour negotiator with Western Industrial Relations but no resolution was found.
In December, the city requested a mediator be called in to try and settle the dispute.
Nielson said the British Columbia Labour Board appointed mediator Trevor Sones to meet with the bargaining committees of the two parties on Jan. 5.
But during the month of December the union began meeting with CAO Norm McInnis and were able to reach a reasonable settlement without mediation.
“We just wanted to let the community know that people don’t have to worry, a settlement has been reached,” said Nielson who added that he was happy the two sides came to an agreement without the help of a third party.
“This helps build a relationship between the union and the employer,” he said. “[McInnis] brought a different view to the bargaining table on behalf of the employer and it was well received by the union bargaining team.”
“The union looks forward to working with the new man in charge,” Neilson added.