8/29/07

Vancouver gov't union strike could worsen

Vancouver's nearly six-week-old municipal strike may soon hit the city with a renewed wave of inconveniences. "When the fall starts, people get ready to go back to school and ready to consider new recreational activities," said Susan Mundick, general manager of Vancouver's Park Board.

September is traditionally a busy month at community centres, she said, with children eager to sign up for sports, parents searching for daycares and countless others signing up for courses. Mundick said that because of the strike, municipal arenas and community centres remain closed, and workers haven't maintained sports fields.

Today, the City of Vancouver said it had not yet responded to a counter-offer from Vancouver's striking inside workers, making it almost certain the dispute will last beyond Labour Day.

Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 15, representing Vancouver's inside workers, issued the counter-offer on Monday saying it was willing to meet at the bargaining table almost immediately.

The union, along with Vancouver's other striking locals, are planning a march on City Hall on Wednesday.

The strike has left the city's soccer fields in such a poor state some games will have to be cancelled and other venues found, said Peter Buree, of the Vancouver Youth Soccer Association.

Buree said the fields are unsafe because possible hazards, such as holes, rocks or sprinkler heads, are hidden by the long grass.

He added many fields also don't have goal posts installed.

As a solution, the 4,000-player boys' league will move some games to Vancouver's gravel fields. In other cases, he said, teams will ask competitors to play games on their fields instead.

Herb Lee, coordinator for the Vancouver Adult Co-ed Hockey League, said games might have to be postponed if the strike drags on.

Unlike many other local leagues, he said the VACHA plays all its games on Vancouver's municipal rinks.

"People are trying to sign up but there is no one at the community centres" to take their names, said Lee, who added the season is tentatively set to begin in early October.

The rink closures will also mean skating programs may have to be delayed, Mundick said.

Of course the Labour Day end to summer vacations means more than just a return to fall and winter sports. Many parents who traditionally rely on city-affiliated child-care facilities will have to find other options.

Mundick said community centres across Vancouver house licensed child-care programs for about 1,350 children.

The fall also means an increase in programming at the city's arts venues, such as the Orpheum, where city managers have been scrambling to find new venues for shows that would otherwise have to be cancelled.

(canada.com)

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