Yukon College students board a City of Whitehorse transit bus in this 2014 file photo. The City of Whitehorse will enter into mediation with the Yukon Employees Union on April 14 and 15. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

City of Whitehorse, union reach agreement on essential services ahead of mediation

Two sides hadn’t updated essential services agreement since 2006

The City of Whitehorse will enter into mediation with the Yukon Employees Union on April 14 and 15.

It’s the latest move in a string of negotiations that began in October 2017.

At that time, locals Y022 (transit) and Y023 (city workers) filed for conciliation with the city after bargaining in an effort to resolve issues around wages and working conditions.

Local Y022 has been engaged in a work-to-rule campaign since March 19.

Local Y023, which includes water and waste, operations, finance, bylaw, and parks and recreation, has not yet served strike notice because the union and the city had been unable to agree on what constitutes essential services.

Last week, however, said YEU president Steve Geick, the city and the union came to a mutual agreement on essential services.

Myles Dolphin, a spokesperson for the City of Whitehorse, said this includes anything involving public health and safety, road clearing for emergency vehicles, heavy equipment repair and anything involving dangerous animals in the city.

If the city and the union can come to an agreement over the weekend, this won’t be necessary, but Dolphin said it’s still a positive development because the city hadn’t had an updated essential services agreement since 2006.

“Hopefully we can have a deal,” Geick told the News over the phone on April 11. “We are prepared to go back and work, well, not 24-7, but 24-2 until we can hammer out a deal. The intention is never to take a job action unless we absolutely have to.”

Since the work-to-rule campaign began, Dolphin said, transit manager Cheri Malo has been working long hours to minimize transit disruptions.

In some cases, this has included using the Handy Bus to fill in on regular routes, as long as passengers have not booked it.

Dolphin wasn’t aware of any conflicts with this approach, but in the event the Handy Bus is being used on a route when someone calls to book it, they’re advised to call one of the city’s cab companies. Every cab company in town has at least one accessible vehicle available.

Dolphin also said those who have experienced delays can bring in their monthly bus passes and get a coupon for 50 per cent off May’s pass.

Geick said he hopes to have an update in the coming days.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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