City of Kimberley asks employees for vote on last offer

If the employees’ vote favours acceptance of the last offer, the terms of the last offer will become the new collective agreement

  • Aug. 10, 2016 6:00 a.m.

KIMBERLEY, B.C. – The City of Kimberley and the United Steelworkers Local 1-405 met for a third

time yesterday with Labour Relations Board mediator Grant MacArthur. The Union declared an

impasse after the first 10 days of bargaining, and a further 4 days has been spent with the

provincially-appointed mediator.

Unable to reach an agreement through mediation and with the Union rejecting the City’s last offer,

the City has asked for a vote by the employees to accept or reject the City’s last offer. If the

employees’ vote favours acceptance of the last offer, the terms of the last offer will become the new

collective agreement between the parties. The City will be providing copies of the complete offer

directly to the employees, with a provincially-supervised election process to follow.

One of the major stumbling blocks in negotiations has been the S.E.S. Job Evaluation System, which

the City views as a failed experiment leading to inequity between departments. The current job

evaluation system compares positions internally, but there are no comparisons to other

municipalities. The Union is seeking to have Aquatic Centre positions run through the S.E.S. system,

which would result in significantly higher wage costs to run the aquatic centre.

As a substitute to the job evaluation system, the City has offered a wage grid based off of the results

of the job evaluation system, and has offered to meet with the Union to discuss a rate of pay for any

new or significantly revised jobs.

The City’s last offer consists of varying wage increases to all employees. The City has offered an

increase of 1.5% per year for 4 years to the majority of its employees. After surveying 20 similarsized

municipalities, the City has discovered that the parks and recreation staff are paid 4% above

the municipal average and therefore are only offering a 1% increase in this department. The

engineering department was determined to be 9% below average, and the building inspector was

being paid 18% less than the municipal average. In order to be able to compete to attract and retain

these positions, the City has offered greater increases to reflect market realities. The City was

unable to fill the building inspector position for several months, which resulted in delays to new

construction.

The City has offered to extend Special Vacation to the 6 permanent aquatic centre staff. The Union

also wants this benefit extended to current seasonal and casual employees, in the event that they

become permanent employees. The Special Vacation benefit consists of an extra 15 days of

vacation for every 5 years of service, on top of the annual vacation entitlements. The City’s position

is that the Special Vacation is no longer financially sustainable, and would see it phased out while not

affecting any current permanent employees’ vacation benefits.

The City has offered enhancements to what it considers to be an already generous benefits package,

which costs the City 35% on top of wages. Amongst the benefit improvements are an increase to the

health spending account (from $150 to $200 per year), a 50% discount for aquatic centre family

passes, coverage for white fillings in our dental plan, and the ability to use a sick day for bereavement

leave.

Unable to settle on an interpretation of the training system proposed in a letter of understanding in

2013, the City has proposed reverting back to the previous training system. The Union is interpreting

the letter of understanding as recognition for all hours worked by an operator, rather than recognition

for hours of training on the equipment. The City is focused on training on specific equipment for the

purposes of increased safety and efficiency.

The bargaining mandate set by council seeks to strike a balance between the accountability to

residential and businesses taxpayers, the City’s $73M infrastructure deficit, and what council sees as

a fair offer to the employees.

In the event of a labour disruption, management staff will be working to ensure public safety and to

provide the best possible service under difficult circumstances.

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