Lockout in Kimberley

Unionized employees turn down final City offer; City issues 72-hour lockout notice

USW 1-405 members vote Thursday.

Kimberley is headed for a lock out as Thursday members of Steelworkers Local 1-405 rejected a final offer from the City.

Under the Labour Code, the City of Kimberley had one opportunity to appeal directly to members and present them with the final offer. The Steelworkers’ bargaining committee has been urging members to reject the offer.

And that they did with a count of 65 out of 70 voting no to the offer.

In response the City issued a 72 hour lockout notice, which will go into effect Sunday, August 28 at 2:58 p.m.

“There had been some hope of reaching an agreement through mediation,” says Chief Administrative Officer Scott Sommerville. “However, on the final day the union committee chair did not bother to attend the mediation and the union added conditions to the previous day’s agreement on a four-year term. This along with the rejection of a number of the City’s proposals then led the City’s bargaining committee to present a best and final offer, which was also rejected. With talks breaking down again, the City then chose to present the offer directly to our employees as a last hope of avoiding a work stoppage.”

Jeff Bromley, of the Steelworkers Bargaining Committee says that the vote reinforces what the committee has been doing.

“The agreement was full of errors, mistakes… it was confusing, and the membership wasn’t prepared to accept it.”

Bromley says while he is gratified by the vote, members now face the issue of a lockout.

However, the committee is prepared to go back to the table at any time, he said.

“As soon as the votes were counted I walked over to the HR manager and said we are ready to go back to the table at any time. But a couple of minutes later, I had the lockout notice in my email.”

“The City remains committed to the process of negotiating a new collective agreement that is fair and reasonable to employees and taxpayers and that allows the City to efficiently deliver services,” Sommerville said. “The City’s bargaining team remains available for negotiations.

“With the last offer being presented from the City, the Union has yet to contact the City to book any further bargaining dates.”

So what will happen to city services?

In the city press release, the basics were outlined:

• Fire Department and RCMP – will operate as normal

• City Hall – closed Monday, August 29th – New Hours will be 10-2 Monday to Friday

• Garbage – New Schedule http://kimberley.ca/news/updated-garbage-schedule

• Aquatic Centre – will be closed indefinitely on Sunday, August 28th

• Civic and Marysville Arenas- will be closed indefinitely on Sunday, August 28th

• Centennial Hall – will be closed except for existing bookings.

• Water and Wastewater – will operate as normal

• Cemetery – will operate as normal

• Road Maintenance – some delays are expected

• Bylaw Enforcement – some delays and service reductions should be expected

• Building Inspection – service will not be available

“The City has been operating under threat of strike for more than two months, since the union membership approved a strike mandate on June 21st,” Sommerville said in a city press release. “Since the beginning of negotiations, the Union has filed 72 grievances, and we have seen eight new Short-Term Disability and WorkSafeBC claims. Attendance and productivity is also dropping, as the uncertainty takes its toll on all of our employees.”

Bromley says the bargaining committee will meet to go over the next steps in preparation for the “city-initiated job action”.