Vancouver strike-mediator's neutrality questioned

Civic strike mediator Brian Foley, who put his "heart and soul" into his recommendations, rejects an allegation that his proposal was tilted in favour of the city. "I have 40 years' experience," Foley said yesterday. "I came from a union. I pride myself on being neutral. I put my heart and soul into those recommendations. It's obvious my judgment is being questioned."

Foley's proposals to end the 11-week-old Vancouver strike were given last week to the three striking locals of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Voting by the 5,075 union members wraps up tonight, while management votes tomorrow. If the contracts are approved, services could begin returning as early as Thursday.

But union leaders are offering members differing advice. Inside workers were asked to approve it, while library workers were asked to reject it. As for the outside workers, members told The Province that the leadership is letting them decide for themselves.

City spokesman Jerry Dobrovolny said it's disappointing some locals have recommended rejection.

"The city was hopeful the recommendations would facilitate a quick end," he said. "The members will have the final say. We'll wait for the results."

Foley said his proposal was fair.

"I listened to every union and management argument for 10 days. I believe my recommendations are fair and balanced, ones that both parties can live with.

"The recommendations went beyond what the city was prepared to do. If I had come down 100 per cent in favour of the union, the city would have rejected it."

He believes if settlements are not reached this week, the strike could extend until 2008.

"This one has a bad odour to it," he said. "It looks like it would go more sour than it is now. We have heard from the leadership of the locals but we haven't heard from the union members yet."

Foley told CKNW: "My nose tells me that this thing, regrettably, has the ability to be a long and protracted and bitter strike."

D'Arcy Stainton, past-president of the library local, dismissed Foley's prediction.

"Foley is an independent mediator who makes his living by getting people back to work," Stainton said. "He wants to put another notch on his belt."

Stainton believes library workers will reject the deal.

"Foley's recommendations tilt in the city's direction. He gave cash to less than half of our members and shut out the other half," Stainton said.

Dobrovolny said that in the past when votes differed members refused to cross each other's picket lines.


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