Watson Lake employees prepared to strike

Updated: Watson Lake’s approximately 20 municipal employees are prepared to go on strike after failing to negotiate a new contract with the town.

Updated:

Watson Lake’s approximately 20 municipal employees are prepared to go on strike after failing to negotiate a new contract with the town.

The employees met Feb. 1 to give their union the authority to strike, said Jack Bourassa, regional executive vice president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

That means a strike could be called at any time, so long as the union gives 72 hours’ notice.

No date has been set for a strike.

Bourassa said he’s not aware of any more scheduled bargaining meetings.

“Certainly the invitation has been extended to the employer, so it’s a question of them getting back to us.”

The union’s last multi-year contract expired in December 2014. Both sides agreed to a one-year extension that expired in December 2015, Bourassa said.

The latest talks between the municipal workers and the town started in May 2016 and broke off Jan. 29.

No one with the Town of Watson Lake could be reached for comment in time for this morning’s deadline.

In a small town, where everyone knows everyone else, the union members don’t want to do anything that is going to divide the community, Bourassa said.

“They’re going to wait until they’ll have the least impact on the community but they have to have some impact on the employer to get things moving.”

He wouldn’t go into detail about what is holding up a new deal.

“I really wouldn’t want to elaborate too much on some of the sticking points because that’s still stuff that’s at the bargaining table and we’re still hopeful that the employer will sit with us again so we can avoid strike action.”

A copy of the town’s local newsletter posted in Watson Lake this week claims the union is looking for more than a dozen changes, including wage increases of two per cent, 1.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent over a three-year deal, increased paid vacation and changes to RRSP contributions.

“The monetary cost of the demands from the union can impact the tax base,” says the notice.

“Further the long term effects of certain collective agreement language changes demanded by the union erode the town’s management rights and will have an impact on the town’s ability to manage and control the work.”

The union’s press release Feb. 3 also alleged “bad faith bargaining” by the town and claims the union is “currently exploring the option of submitting a bad faith bargaining complaint to the Canadian Labour Relations Board in response to recent actions by the employer.”

Bourassa wouldn’t elaborate on that allegation.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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