City seeks to suppress gov't union strikers

The City of Vancouver, B.C. may be filing a complaint with the Labour Relations Board if members of a CUPE local don't stop picketing at park board sites. City spokesman Jerry Dobrovolny said Thursday that some members of Local 1004 showed up to picket as inside workers from Local 15 tried to go back to work after a three-month civic strike.

Dobrovolny said city representatives will try to resolve the matter by meeting with executives of the picketing outside workers' local. "If we have a fundamental difference of opinion about what is a legitimate or not a legitimate picket line then we would go to the Labour Relations Board for a ruling," he said.

Indoor workers went back to work Thursday after walking off the job in July, but outside workers and librarians voted against a mediator's proposed deal and remain on the picket line. That means that while community centres will start some of their fall programs, those attached to libraries may still be behind picket lines.

Garbage pickup still won't resume for Vancouver residents, who have found some creative ways to deal with their trash - mostly by taking it to the homes of friends and family living in condos with private pickup or to neighbouring municipalities that contract out such services.

"My brother lives in Vancouver so he brings me a gift whenever he comes over," said Dobrovolny, a resident of New Westminster.

Some people have taken to dumping their trash in back alleys or wherever they see fit while others have paid someone to dispose of their garbage for up to $10 a bag.

Vancouver Coun. Peter Ladner said that when it comes to garbage piling up, the strike may lead to a change in the definition of essential service for health reasons.

"It's not an essential service to pick up garbage every week or two or even every month. But it may be an essential service to pick it up every three months."

Ladner said managers and other staff exempt from the strike have been working overtime so dumped garbage doesn't create an even bigger mess.

"We've had the managers going around and picking through the garbage and taking it back to the people who dumped it," he said, adding address labels in the trash have come in handy.

As the strike continues, some Vancouver residents say they're owed a rebate on their tax dollars because they haven't received the service they've paid for while the city has saved on wages for three months.

"No question about it, there have been huge inconveniences and disruptions to people's lives in the city because of the strike," Ladner said.

But the labour disruption has come at a hefty cost, he said, including a $1,000 signing bonus for those who are now back on the job and overtime pay for managers trying to keep the garbage problem under control.

Lost revenue from golf courses and community centres has also added up to a lot of money, he said.

"We won't know for several months what the actual savings, if any, are and in the event that there are savings we have already passed a motion to council that they would be rolled into next year's budget."

"It's important that people don't expect a separate cheque in the mail."

Union officials couldn't be reached for comment.


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