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HRM Willing to Resume Bargaining with CUPE Local 108
(Friday, July 8/05)-- Halifax Regional Municipality is willing to meet at any time to discuss fundamental changes to the Winter Works Operations with negotiators for Local 108 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) to reach an agreement in their current contract dispute, Matt McPherson, HRM’s Chief Negotiator, said today.
Talks between the sides began last November and the dispute eventually went to provincial concilation in June. Those talks were unsuccessful and the Conciliation Officer's Report was filed with the Minister of Environment & Labour on June 24. A 14-day countdown period expires at midnight tonight, opening the door to a possible legal strike or lockout.
Mediation talks held this week, but the sides broke off at an impasse yesterday. The union’s last contract with HRM expired in October 2004.
Mr. McPherson outlined HRM’s key concerns in the negotiations with Local 108, which represents HRM’s 500 outside workers, who perform such tasks as snow and ice clearing, sewer maintenance, rinks, parks and playing field maintenance etc.
KEY HRM CONCERNS:
Winter Works Operations (Snow and Ice Clearing)
? Snow cannot effectively be cleared during regular daytime hours due to traffic, parking etc. As a result, most clearing occurs overnight and on weekends and therefore, HRM must pay overtime rates at time-and-a-half or double time for those periods.
? Additionally, the old agreement sets out fixed crew requirements that hamper HRM's ability to have a phased-in response to snow clearing efforts, appropriate to the size and timing of any particular snowstorm.
Mr. McPherson said HRM is seeking more flexibility in work assignment, as well as new, balanced 12-hours shift for snow and ice crews. Employees would still be paid overtime after they work 80 hours during a pay period, and on weekends; but not based upon when hours are worked.
“HRM is not cutting out all overtime. However, this new approach for winter works will save HRM taxpayers approximately $ 2 million in unnecessary overtime costs each winter. That’s money that can be used to enhance other HRM services.” he said. “ This approach is similar to operations for provincial Transportation and Public Works snow plow drivers, under a different CUPE agreement. If it works for the Province, HRM doesn't understand why it shouldn't work here.”
HRM has offered guaranteed full wages for winter works employees on shift. Also, there would be no job losses as a result of the new system.
To date, CUPE has refused to discuss any fundamental change. Without resolution of this issue, other matters can't be resolved.
HRM wants clarification changes to the Local 108 collective agreement to ensure that it has the right to assign employees to perform work where and when needed, on a short term basis (under 30 days). Under the current contract, HRM must post positions and award work by seniority-- not on ability.
“We need enhanced flexibility. We pay the employees, and we believe that we should be able to assign where they work,” he said. CUPE has refused changes.
Current Hourly Wages: Range from $ 15.87 to $ 22.15.
Mr. McPherson said “HRM is prepared for a strike, but it would prefer to see all of the issues resolved at the bargaining table.”
No future talks between the sides are scheduled at this time.
HRM Chief Negotiator
Corporate Communications Officer
(902) 490-4044 (fax)