7/18/07

Gov't union strike starts tomorrow in Vancouver

The leader of the union representing more than 1,800 outside workers for the City of Vancouver, BC says job action against the city could start as early as Thursday morning. Mike Jackson, president of local 1004 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said if past strikes are any indication, job action could last up to eight weeks. He said the city called the union to the bargaining table Tuesday but left soon after, a situation he called frustrating.

A strike would severely affect city services, as the B.C. Labour Relations Board ruling declared only emergency and lifeguard services as essential. The workers include garbage collectors and parks and recreation staff.

In addition to a wage increase for all members, Jackson said the union is seeking wage adjustments for positions in the trades, improvements for temporary full-time workers, and progress on other issues.

The union also wants whistle-blower protection for members who want to report concerns without facing discipline.

The 72-hour strike notice takes effect at 10:30 a.m.

"We will be enforcing the ban on overtime. There will be study sessions which means that work will slow down," Jackson said. "Garbage will still be picked up, it will just be picked up a little later maybe. There will not be full pickets out."

Jackson said no further negotiations are planned.

A spokesman for the city could not be reached for comment.

Civic workers in 11 Lower Mainland municipalities have been without a contract since last December.

Parks Board commissioner Spencer Herbert said a strike would shut down service such as pools, golf courses, kids day camps and seniors programs at a time of year when their use is at their highest.

And, he added, it's the one time of year when the parks board manages to make some money from its services.

"It's pretty devastating," he said. "We've got to negotiate."

Herbert said a strike could also halt restoration work in Stanley Park which was devastated by storms last winter.

The work is being done by private contractors and Herbert said he does not know if those workers would honour a picket line or not.

He said while he supports the right to strike, crossing a picket line is up to the private operators.

(cjad.com)

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