Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Workers’ strike enters fifth day as union and city remain at odds

Municipal workers in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, have been on strike for the fifth official day since Friday. The union and the city have been at odds over wage agreements for months.

Some city employees have been on the picket lines since Monday, September 11. Before the strike began Monday, the union said it gave the city two weeks’ notice.

According to the vice-president of CUPE 882, Cara Stelmaschuk, the strike could have been avoided if the City had agreed to come to the negotiating table.

“We tried to organize several meetings, but we didn’t get many answers. A very last minute meeting was planned last Thursday. At that meeting, we were told that if we changed our proposal, they would still consider it,” Stelmaschuk said.

“So we got cost estimates, changed the proposal, dialed back a few things, and then it was rejected again.

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“It is very clear that they are not prepared to negotiate, which is a real shame. This is our right as a union. This is how these works are carried out. It’s over at the negotiating table. This will only happen if we are at the negotiating table, that’s for sure.

Those who work inside City Hall, such as city payment services departments and front-line facilities staff, are most affected.

Stelmaschuk believes the strike is having some impact because city hall, the Alfred Jenkins Field House and all city-run facilities are short of front-line employees.

“City Hall is completely different this week, because a lot of the people on the front lines, for example those you ask for information from, like fines, traffic tickets, building permits and more, are currently on the picket lines . The people who answer the phones are not used to receiving these kinds of calls,” Stelmaschuk said.

What the union is asking for will cost the city an additional $48,000. Stelmaschuk believes the city can handle it.

Well, 12 percent seems perfectly reasonable to us. One percent isn’t so bad. And initially it’s a four-year rollout – the beginning of our counteroffer, or our settlement offer, is the same. So the 1 percent difference is not even last year or this year, but $48,000 that they can budget for later,” Stelmaschuk said.

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Kiley Bear, Prince Albert’s director of corporate services, says the city believes 11.5 per cent is the best deal in the province and even among Saskatchewan cities.

“It’s also one of the best deals in Canada right now. This is a generous offer. And we would like to see the union embrace that value and have those conversations. We are ready to talk to them about priorities in this regard,” Bear said.

Bear says the union is simply asking for too much and giving more would have an impact on city taxpayers.

“We greatly appreciate the work of our employees, but we also appreciate the contribution that our community makes to the City of Prince Albert in paying these employees, keeping these facilities open and running the city,” Bear said.

“It’s a balance for us. We must balance the needs of our employees with those of our community who pay for these services, and that is what we have done. This is what we are committed to continuing to do.

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