Mediator called to settle Many Rivers strike

Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services has asked for a federal mediator to step in to settle a dispute with its striking unionized workers. The strike started Monday. The main issue is the banking of flex time.

Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services has asked for a federal mediator to step in to settle a dispute with its striking unionized workers.

The strike started Monday. The main issue is the banking of flex time.

“It’s not a nine-to-five job,” said executive director Marilyn Wolovick. “I think we are all in agreement that flexibility is a good thing.

“It’s the banking of large amounts of flex time that seems to be the sticking point,” she said.

Management wants prior approval over any banked flextime in excess of two hours over a regular work week.

And that’s a point the union isn’t willing to budge on. At least not yet.

“This is something that’s been in place, I think, going back as far as 1968, definitely before we unionized,” said Steve Geick, president of the Yukon Employees’ Union. “We’re just looking at continuing something that’s always been in existence.”

Right now, morale is high on the picket line, Geick said.

“I just came from the picket line and I’ve been down there every day all day,” he said Thursday.

“For a local that only has 18 members, we’ve had 10 or more people out on the picket line the whole time, so their spirits are very, very good.”

But that doesn’t mean the union isn’t ready to get back to the negotiating table.

As of Thursday, Geick hadn’t heard from the mediator but he was expecting a call.

“Hopefully, we can get this done and get back to work and get clients served,” he said.

Because of the strike, Many Rivers has had to cancel many of its services, like the outreach van and parent education programs, said Wolovick.

But it is still offering some services.

“Because there is a picket line, we are concerned for our clients’ anonymity so we are just offering telephone response right now,” she said. “We’re very sad that it’s happening.

“We have settled all of the major issues in negotiations. We’ve given raises. We’ve agreed to a dental plan, so we feel like we’ve given a lot and this was the one remaining issue that hasn’t been resolved.”

Talks between management and the union have yet to resume, but Wolovick is hopeful that they will soon.

“We do want to resolve this for the benefit of everyone,” she said. “For our staff, our clients and the whole community. We don’t want to see this drag on.”

And while they may have their differences, that’s one point where the union and management agree.

“We want to get back to the bargaining table as soon as possible,” said Geick. “We realize the impact on the clients that these people are servicing and we don’t want this to drag on.

“We think this is a very positive move.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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