Watson Lake municipal employees go on strike

Watson Lake’s municipal employees are on strike. The town locked out its 22 employees this morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Watson Lake’s municipal employees are on strike.

The town locked out its 22 employees this morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Instead of going back to work once the lockout ended, the employees are now on strike, Yukon Employees Union president Steve Geick, said shortly after the strike began.

Had the employees chosen to go back to work after the lockout, they would have done so without a collective agreement. That means the town can arbitrarily impose conditions on employees.

“The members don’t feel safe going back to work,” Geick said. “They don’t trust the employer.”

In a letter to the union announcing the lockout, Watson Lake’s acting CAO Rick Rotondi said the town was planning some changes once employees came back to work.

The sections of the collective agreement that deal with grievances and arbitration were going to be repealed.

Changes would also have come for staff working in parks and recreation and protective services like bylaw. Details were to be provided once those employees came back to work.

Issues around work hours for some of those employees are a major stumbling block in the negotiations, Geick said.

The town wants to be able to shift the start time of some employees’ work day so they can work later or work weekends, Rotondi told the News.

“We just want to make sure that we can slide those (hours) … for certain jobs that are typically outside of that (nine-to-five) framework.”

Geick said the union needs more details around what those schedules would look like and how much employees would get paid for overtime or shift changes.

“They’re not giving us anything in terms of what the schedule would look like.”

The strike is the latest step in a dispute that has been going on for 10 months.

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

Talks started in May 2016.

The employees met Feb. 1 of this year to give their union the authority to strike. Geick said the last time both sides met to negotiate was mid-February.

Rotondi said a strike is not what the town wanted.

“This is the path they’ve chosen and we will hopefully be able to negotiate in the near future and bring closure to this.”

He said the town wants to provide services “in an efficient, cost-effective manner.”

The Yukon’s Department of Community Services has confirmed that EMS and the volunteer fire department will continue running during the strike.

Both sides say it’s up to the other to set a time for the next round of negotiations.

Meanwhile, striking employees will earn approximately $102 a day during the strike. There’s also an emergency hardship fund for those who need it, Geick said.

According to the union, workers offered to accept binding arbitration but the town refused.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

New transitional home opens its doors

Supportive housing, semi-independent living and drop-in services are set to be offered

Yukonstruct, Poor Creature wrap up legal arguments

Justice Ron Veale is expected to give his decision on the case next week.

Second attempted murder charge laid in downtown Whitehorse shooting

Two men are now facing a total of 17 charges in relation to the shooting outside the Elite Hotel

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

Yukon Energy announces rate hike

The average Yukon household will pay an extra $20.48 every month

RCMP asks B.C. cannabis shop to remove image of Sam Steele

Owner happy to comply with RCMP, but wants more information first

EDITORIAL: Time for the Yukon Party’s opening act

Having a competitive leadership race could be good for the party

City news, briefly

Some of the news from the Dec. 2 Whitehorse city council meeting

Arctic Sports Inter-School Championship draws athletes from as far as Juneau

The three-day event included more than 300 participants from kindergarten to Grade 12

Access road to Telegraph Creek now open

Ministry has spent $300K to date on work to clear rockslide

Freedom Trails responds to lawsuit

A statement of defence was to the Yukon Supreme Court on Nov. 19.

Whitehorse RCMP seeking suspects after robbery at Yukon Inn

Robbery took place in early hours of Nov. 27, with suspects armed with a knife and “large stick”

Yukonomist: Your yogurt container’s dirty secret

You should still recycle, but recycling one might be giving you a false sense of environmental virtue

Most Read