Union calls on Watson Lake councillor to quit

The Yukon Employees' Union is pushing for the resignation of a Watson Lake city councillor. The union is alleging Coun. Cynthia Kearns made disparaging comments about two senior city employees last month.

The Yukon Employees’ Union is pushing for the resignation of a Watson Lake city councillor.

The union is alleging Coun. Cynthia Kearns made disparaging comments about two senior city employees last month.

This comes as the two sides work on a new collective agreement. Now the union says the comments could impact those discussions.

Watson Lake council meetings are broadcast live over the Internet. At the end of the regularly scheduled meeting on June 18, an in-camera session “was held to discuss confidential staffing compensation,” union president Steve Geick said.

The camera was supposed to be turned off. It wasn’t.

No one is saying what specifically was said, but the union claims the employees were mentioned by name and called “unworthy of a proposed raise in pay.”

YEU has been negotiating a new contract for Watson Lake employees. Geick said a tentative deal had been agreed to, which would include a pay raise. The deal has not been ratified by union members or approved by city council.

Geick, who hasn’t seen the footage, said he thinks this is how the conversation in question came about.

Neither the minutes for the meeting nor the webcast itself have been posted on the town website, like others are.

Geick said Kearns should resign.

“Someone that’s entrusted with serving the people of Watson Lake in a political position, to come out and basically defame members, I don’t think that’s upholding what she was elected to do.”

The News spoke to both Kearns and Watson Lake Mayor Richard Durocher.

Durocher said even though the camera was left running, the items discussed were still “in-camera,” meaning they can’t be spoken to publicly.

“I know it was a malfunction in our equipment that let that be broadcast over the airways, but we were officially in-camera, and anything in-camera is not a matter of record,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it was said, but at this point that’s all I can say about that.”

When pressed on whether or not he thought Kearns should resign, Durocher would not comment. He said that was in Kearns’ hands.

Kearns said she has no intention of resigning at this point.

“If the community feels that they want me to resign over this issue then it’s obviously something I would have to consider,” she said yesterday.

She said she would be talking to the employees in question, but wouldn’t say whether that conversation would include an apology.

“I understood we were in-camera and it’s my understanding that when you go in-camera it becomes like your living room, it’s sort of a comfortable zone for council. So if I said something untoward, it’s because I understood we were in-camera.”

Geick said the union’s contract negotiator would be in discussions with the Canada Industrial Labour Relations Board to see if there are any ramifications over what’s been said.

“You enter into negotiations for collective agreements with good faith on both sides and that’s the basis of collective bargaining and that’s protected under Canadian labour law,” he said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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