City of Kimberley unionized employees give Steelworkers 99% strike mandate

Mediator named from BCLRB to assist negotiations, union city to meet July 13

Last week, the City of Kimberley and Steelworkers Local I-405 announced that labour negotiations had stalled. The City said it would seek a mediator, the union said it would seek a strike vote.

The vote has now been taken with 99 per cent in favour of a strike. 90 per cent of eligible employees took part in the vote, the USW reports.

Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick says that he has no comment on the situation until after the sessions with the mediator, scheduled for July 13.

“We hopeful that the mediation will work,” he said.

The City put out a brief press release Wednesday, saying the City is hopeful of receiving recommendations from the mediator that will be mutually agreeable to both the City and the Union.

“The City anticipates reaching a settlement which is in the best interests of the community and which is fair and respectful to City workers, residents, and businesses.

“The City of Kimberley website and Facebook page will be updated regularly to keep the public informed of any service disruptions that may occur in the event of job action.”

Jeff Bromley lead negotiator for the Steelworkers, says 99 per cent is a pretty strong message.

“I would say that’s a substantial mandate and it indicates the membership agrees with our disapproval of the stance the employer has taken,” he said. “We’re hopeful now that the employer will move away from the stance they’ve taken at the bargaining table and remove the concessions that stand in the way of a fair collective agreement for our members.”

The union has agreed to meet with a mediator from the BC Labour Relations Board. Trevor Sonnes, who assisted the two in finalizing the last collective agreement, is scheduled to meet with both parties July 13.

The question is, are the two parties too far apart for a mediator to find some common ground?

“With a mediator there is always the hope that he can bridge the gap between the two parties,” Bromley said. “But are they too far apart? We would hope there is a deal there.”

Bromley says the membership remains adamant that things negotiated in the past, such as vacations and the fair job evaluation program are not going to be given up.

“You will note that nowhere have we talked about money,” he told the Bulletin. “Money isn’t the issue. We understand economic realty, we know that times are tough. The issue is the concessions the employer is seeking.

“Vacations were negotiated back in the 1980s, when times weren’t good. Instead of increased wages, members took increased vacation. We’re not going to lose negotiated vacation provisions. Regardless of where you work, I think that is completely unacceptable.”

Bromley says everything is now in a holding pattern until July 13. “We’ll just have to see how things go from there,” he saId.