Summer of labour unrest

City of Kimberley, USW Local 1-405 still apart on key issues; membership to vote on final offer

With negotiations stalled, and mediation having failed, the City of Kimberley and the United Steelworkers are now headed to a membership vote on the last offer.

There has been some movement, but key issues continue to trouble the Union, said a USW press release.

One of the those is the S.E.S. Job Evaluation System. The City considers it a failed experiment that leads to inequity between departments, while the Union says its removal would allow the employer to change jobs, descriptions and duties as they see fit without any recourse for the employee to have the position fairly evaluated.

“The current job evaluation system compares positions internally, but there are no comparisons to other municipalities,” said the City press release. “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,”said the city release.

But, says the Union, the current job evaluation system will be stripped from the collective agreement, replaced by language that forces members to accept whatever changes to the position are placed upon it and the rate which is determined by the employer, with no input by the employee or the union.

“In the first year wage increases of 18 per cent plus will go to one position; two other positions will get 9 per cent; a large portion of the membership will get 1.5 per cent while the Parks and Facilities department will receive 1 ewer cebtm” Not fair, the union says.

The City says the 1.5 per cent is offered to the majority of unionized workers.

“After surveying 20 similar-sized municipalities, the City has discovered that the parks and recreation staff are paid 4 per cent above the municipal average and therefore are only offering a 1per cent increase in this department. The engineering department was determined to be 9% per cent below average, and the building inspector was being paid 18 per cent 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 union counters that this creates an unacceptable two-tiered vacation benefit between current employees and new ones.

“Again, money is not an issue,” said Jeff Bromley from the Steelworkers. “But to start dividing us is unacceptable.”

The City will be sending its final offer directly to employees, and asking them to vote directly in a closed ballot on whether to accept or reject it.

However Steelworkers Local 1-405 is advising its members to vote no.

“The USW Bargaining Committee is strongly recommending rejection of the offer.

“If accepted, the last offer from the employer becomes the new collective agreement for USW members at the City of Kimberley.

“Clearly, the employer is using a divide and conquer tactic in order to force concessions upon our membership. Your USW Bargaining Committee has a clear mandate from the membership to bargain a fair collective agreement and not have one forced upon us.”

“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,” the City says. “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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