LA port union boss: Picket signs are going up

Labor negotiations between port clerks and shipping companies are at an impasse, and a top union official said workers are prepared to walk off the job at any moment. The news comes only hours after sources indicated the two sides would resume talking early today in an effort to avoid a work stoppage at the nation’s largest seaport. As of 12:30 p.m., work on the waterfront in Los Angeles-Long Beach was continuing as normal. In comments to KNX 1070 radio, attorney Steve Berry, the lead negotiator on behalf of 14 shipping companies and terminal operators who hired the clerks, said the sides were at an impasse.

“Each side has moved as far as they feel they can go at this point and can’t go any further,” he said. Earlier, John Fageaux Jr., the Local 63 Office Clerical Unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union boss, said workers were ready to strike. “Talks are over ... We’ve gone as far as we could go and done everything we could do,” Fageaux said in comments to the radio station. “The next step is we’re going to get together with our group and determine when and where picket signs are going to go up.”

The two sides have been bargaining for a new contract since May. Workers authorized their leaders to call a strike on the eve of their July 1 contract expiration, but have continued negotiations since that time. More than 7,000 ILWU longshore workers who work at the twin ports have agreed to honor picket lines put up by clerical workers - a move that would shut down the port complex.

Other workers, including more than 650 machinists who work on the docks, have also pledged to honor picket lines.


Memphis probe of Teamster organizer spreads statewide

A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe involving feuding Metro police unions widened Tuesday as one union's headquarters were raided and officers in two other departments were questioned. Agents hauled off computer hard drives and files from the Antioch Pike offices of the Teamsters, which took over as the Metro Nashville police union last year in a bitter department election.

A Teamsters representative is being investigated for allegedly concealing cameras at a youth camp run by the ousted Metro union, the Fraternal Order of Police. Agents have begun questioning law enforcement officers in Memphis and at Nashville's police and sheriff's departments to learn the identities of others believed to be connected to the incident, TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.

Don Aaron, spokesman for the Metro police department, confirmed that "the TBI came to police headquarters to speak to an officer who is affiliated with the Teamsters organization, but there have been no other charges placed other than those lodged against (former Metro police Lt. Calvin) Hullett."

An interview at the Shelby County Sheriff's Office resulted in a veteran detective being relieved of duty, with pay, Tuesday.

The raid and the interviews follow the arrest earlier this month of Hullett, a national organizer for the Teamsters union. Hullett has been on a police disability pension since 2006.

He was arrested at a camp for underprivileged youth operated in Mt. Juliet by the Fraternal Order of Police. Hullett had served as FOP president before he joined the Teamsters.

Evidence found at home

TBI officials say they found a sophisticated operation at the camp, with cameras and a hard drive containing about 80 hours of video hidden near a cabin.

After Hullett's arrest, investigators found material that led them to widen the probe into his connections to officers in Memphis and in Nashville, Helm said.

"We are here because of what we found when we searched Calvin Hullett's house after he was arrested," Helm said Tuesday during the Teamsters office search. "We found documents in his home that led us here to the Teamsters Local 327."

The TBI would not say what evidence investigators found in Hullett's house, and would not talk about what they hoped to find in the Teamsters office.

Helm said that "about a half-dozen" people were interviewed in connection with the probe on Tuesday.

"It's obvious from watching on the sideline that the TBI investigation that began at the FOP camp is evolving," police spokesman Aaron said. "And because of the ongoing situation, the department is not really in a situation to publicly discuss it."

Search is on for others

Shelby County Sgt. Joe Everson, a detective with the General Investigations Bureau, was relieved of duty Tuesday after TBI agents visited him at his office.

Shelby County Sheriff's public affairs officer Steve Shular said it should be noted that "Sergeant Everson has not been charged with any crime."

Everson joined the sheriff's office in 1988.

He will be off-duty with pay, pending the outcome of an administrative investigation by the Sheriff's Office Bureau of Professional Standards and Integrity, according to a news release issued by Shular.

Helm also said investigators are trying to track down at least two other people TBI investigators believe were with Hullett the night the cameras were installed at the FOP camp.

The TBI began looking into activities at the FOP youth camp after the bureau received a tip about the cameras, Helm said.

Hullett was arrested and charged with aggravated burglary when he returned to the camp, Helm said.

He was released from Wilson County jail after posting $5,000 bond.

Attorney Jack Byrd, who sometimes represents the Teamsters, said he isn't sure if he will be the union's lawyer in this case, but he did go to the Teamsters office Tuesday.

"I was there after the search was conducted. … The only comment that we'll make at this time is that the Teamsters local is cooperating fully and that's it."


Contractors seek injunction against picketing strikers

General contractors impacted by striking Vancouver city workers are lining up at the B.C. Labour Relations Board looking for relief as picketers showed up at worksite entrances attempting to bar crews from entering. Picketing began Monday at the Hillcrest Olympic site (near Nat Bailey Stadium) after the workday had begun. Stuart Olson Constructors Inc. were prepared when picketers showed up again early Tuesday morning as company representative handed out an injunction order from the labor relations board which prohibited CUPE Local 15 members from blocking workers from entering the site.

Before the order could be handed out, cars and trucks were already bypassing the placard-carrying strikers as workers ignored the attempted blockade.

At the new Sunset Community Centre building on Main Street, Haebler Construction crews were barred from entering the site by a pile of debris stacked by CUPE Local 1004 members. Because of the large group of vocal strikers, a Haebler spokesman said he was asking crews to pull back as he returned to the head office.

Roland Haebler told Journal of Commerce his company is seeking an injunction from the B.C. Labour Relations Board to keep picketers away from the site.

“We will see what happens,” he said.

The City of Vancouver has provided contactors facing jobsite pickets with information on how to obtain injunctions from the labour board.

“It will be necessary for them (contractors) to continue some of their operations on sites where the City has a small number of CUPE employees,” the city release read.

The work on the Canada Line is not expected to be impacted directly by striking Vancouver city workers. Tom Timm, general manager of engineering services, said that city crews had already relocated the sewer and water lines around the rapid transit line. “The ongoing work is not being done by city crews,” he said.

A recent report issued by VANOC on work being done at the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village indicated a large portion of the site preparation and servicing, including utilities installation, road building and waterfront reinstatement has been completed.

“We expect to continue with all planned preparations for the games with no impact from the strike,” said VANOC spokesperson Renee Smith-Valade, vice-president of communications. “We will continue to monitor the status of the negotiations and, if necessary, will adapt our schedule and working arrangements. Like all those affected by the strike, we hope those involved will be able to resolve the issues under dispute as soon as possible.”


Conflicting reports from drawn-out Port talks

There were conflicting reports on talks between union clerical workers and the shipping lines at the Los Angeles port complex Wednesday. KNX 1070 radio reported Wednesday morning that an impasse had been reached, the clerical workers could go on strike at any moment and that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union would not cross their picket lines. However, the Long Beach Post-Telegram reported Tuesday that the labor talks between were headed toward a peaceful resolution.

If the Longshore union and the clerks strike, it could bring to a standstill the port and the $1 billion worth of cargo that moves through the port complex every day. However, reports surface later Wednesday by unnamed sources associated with the negotiations that they continue to slow progress. According to the source, a wage package has already been agreed to and negotiators are left discussing benefits and a few employer-specific issues.

The last contract expired more than a month ago. Wage compensation is a sticking point in the talks. Full time workers earned $78,000 a year and the union wants their wages increased to $53 an hour by the end of the next contract –about $110,000 per year for a 40-hour work week.


Teamster pickets causing WM pickup delays

Marathon talks aimed at ending a labor dispute that led Waste Management of Alameda County, CA to lock out nearly 500 garbage workers more than three weeks ago continued into Tuesday night at a federal mediator's office before ending at around 8 p.m. without resolution. The talks, which are the sixth mediation session since the lockout began on July 2, began at 9:30 a.m., were interrupted by a lunch break and resumed early in the afternoon. Federal mediator Jerry Allen and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums shuttled proposals and counterproposals between negotiators for Waste Management and Teamsters Union Local 70, who are in separate rooms.

At a court hearing earlier Tuesday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller ordered Waste Management to return to court on Aug. 3 for a hearing on whether the company should be found in contempt of court for allegedly not complying with Keller's order last week that it abide by its contract with the city of Oakland and provide complete garbage collection service in the city.

Keller said one factor that could "mitigate against a contempt citation" is Waste Management's allegation that a major reason there are missed pickups of garbage is that locked-out garbage drivers are preventing trucks driven by replacement workers from leaving the company's yard in a timely fashion every morning.

Keller said Oakland officials have presented sufficient evidence to convince him that he should have a contempt hearing.

After the hearing, Oakland City Attorney John Russo said he thinks Keller should fine Waste Management $2,500 a day for each of the hundreds of pickups the city says have been missed since the judge original order on July 19.

The judge said a contempt citation would have to be based on evidence that the company is "in willful disregard" of his order last week.

Waste Management has locked out 481 drivers who belong to Teamsters Local 70, as well as an additional 360 employees who belong to machinists and longshore and warehouse workers unions.

The company said it took that action because it feared the unions would go on strike, as four months of labor talks had been unsuccessful, but the unions say they didn't have any plans to go on strike.

In addition to Oakland, the company serves Albany, Emeryville, Hayward, Newark, Livermore, the Castro Valley Sanitary District, Oro Loma Sanitary District in parts of San Leandro and San Lorenzo, San Ramon and unincorporated Alameda County.

Tuesday's lengthy negotiating session follows a 12-hour session on Sunday and an eight-hour session on Thursday.


National Teamsters organizer in Tenn. trouble

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today expanded its probe into allegations that a former Metro police lieutenant was conducting illegal videotaping at a police-run summer camp for underprivileged children, a TBI spokeswoman said. TBI agents served search warrants at the Nashville office of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union which represents Metro police officers. Agents carried out computer hard drives and files from the Teamsters' office on Antioch Pike.

Agents also began questioning law enforcement officers in Memphis and at Nashville’s police and sheriff’s departments to learn the identities of other officers believed to be connected to incident, TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.

The raid follows the arrest earlier this month of former Metro police Lt. Calvin Hullett, a national organizer for the Teamsters union. Hullett has been on a police disability pension since 2006.

Hullett was arrested at the camp for underprivileged youth in Mt. Juliet operated by the former Metro police union, the Fraternal Order of Police. Hullett had served as FOP president before he joined the Teamsters.

TBI officials say they found a sophisticated operation at the TBI camp, with cameras and a hard drive containing about 80 hours of video hidden near a cabin.

Investigators found material that led them to widen the probe into Hullett's connections to officers in Memphis and in Nashville, Helm said.

“We are here because of what we found when we searched Calvin Hullett’s house after he was arrested,” Helm said yesterday from the Teamsters office. “We found documents in his home that led us here to the Teamsters Local 327.”

The TBI would not say what evidence they found in Hullett’s house, and also would not talk about what they hoped to find in the Teamsters office.

Helm also said investigators are trying to track down at least two other people TBI investigators believe were with Hullett the night the cameras were installed at the FOP camp.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation began looking into activities at the FOP's youth camp after the bureau received a tip about the cameras, Helm said. Hullett was arrested and charged with aggravated burglary when he returned to the camp, Helm said.

He was released from Wilson County jail after posting $5,000 bond.

Attorney Jack Byrd, who sometimes represents the teamsters, said he's not sure if he will be the union’s lawyer in this case. But he did go to the Teamsters office today.

"I was there after the search was conducted ... The only comment that we'll make at this time is that the teamsters local is cooperating fully and that's it."


Economic boom blamed for Summer of Strikes

This may be the summer of unrest in the West, as thousands of municipal and forestry workers have walked off the job in British Columbia and thousands more tradespeople and paramedics in Alberta have voted to strike. The labour disputes come amid red-hot economies in both provinces, which have driven up corporate profit and the cost of living along with it.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said that nobody (employers especially) should be surprised by the demands for wage increases coming on the heels of almost two decades of recession, budget cuts and stagnant pay. "Now we find ourselves in the boom, so workers are doing exactly what should be expected: They are trying to get their fair share of the growing economic pie," he said. "If workers can't make substantial gains during economic boom times like we're currently enjoying in Alberta, when can they?"

Yesterday, the debt-free Alberta government moved to quash the discontent among Calgary's more than 400 emergency service workers, who pledged to hit the picket lines tomorrow after an overwhelming 99 per cent of members voted to strike.

Alberta Employment Minister Iris Evans said the cabinet declared a public emergency to avert the strike and will announce a tribunal to force both sides into an agreement.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents paramedics, pointed out that its Calgary workers make less than their counterparts in Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg, where inflation is not nearly as pronounced.

Meanwhile, B.C.'s $2-billion-a-year coast forest sector is at a standstill as 7,000 logging and sawmilling workers represented by the United Steelworkers set up picket lines on the weekend.

The union and industry are dug in over several issues, including shift scheduling and contracting out.

Coast forest workers last went on strike for three weeks in 2003. An arbitrated settlement that took effect in 2004 gave employers, among other things, more leeway in assigning shifts.

Companies say they can't give up flexibility on that front, asserting that market conditions - including a soaring loonie and a limping U.S. housing market - have only worsened in the interim.

The union says that employers are putting workers' health and safety at risk and that industry has failed to live up to promises to reinvest in the sector.

Most observers expect that strike to last the summer.

At the same time, about 6,000 civic workers in Vancouver and North Vancouver began job action last week in their bid to seal a new contract. Library staff in Vancouver launched rotating job action yesterday while garbage piled up and public washrooms were left untended.

A major issue is the length of contracts. The city wants a 39-month deal to run through the 2010 Winter Olympics, but union officials prefer a contract that won't leave them to bargain in a potential post-Olympic environment of cost overruns and cuts.

Relief may be coming to the suburb of Richmond, B.C., where about 1,200 union members reached a tentative deal yesterday, which will be put to a vote tomorrow.

However, labour officials in Alberta also confirmed that a massive majority of electricians, millwrights, pipefitters, boilermakers and refrigeration mechanics, who are members of five unions primarily involved in oil sands and construction projects, have voted to walk off the job.

The historic strike vote - the first in a quarter-century under the province's restrictive labour legislation - is aimed at kick-starting negotiations for the 25,000 workers, said Barry Salmon, a spokesman for the unions.

Wages and "quality of life" issues, such as work-camp conditions and the long commute for workers to Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, are the key issues, Mr. Salmon said. So is the length of wage contracts during a boom with no end in sight.

"There are members that are hesitant about accepting a wage offer for the year 2011," Mr. Salmon said, "Traditionally, wage contracts have been two years. This one, all the contractors for all the unions offered four. ... What's the cost of living going to be in 2011?"

Already this month, Alberta's nurses signed on to a three-year deal that would make them the highest-paid workers in their job category in Canada.

The province offered wage increases of up to 9.1 per cent more next year as a way to compensate for the soaring cost of living as well as to help with recruitment and retention.

The Alberta Federation of Labour's Mr. McGowan said any wage increases under 6 per cent would be a decrease in real take-home pay.

"If you pay people, they will come," he said.


SEIU shows who's the boss in Chatanooga

It's a pay raise that some Chattanooga city workers are calling unfair. All city employees received a three-percent raise at the beginning of the year. But some say workers who make the most money are benefiting more than lower-paid employees. Tuesday, City Council addressed what these upset employees want: Getting rid of the three-percent increase and instead giving all city employees a dollar-an-hour raise. That way, they say, everyone receives the same amount of money and the income gap stays the same.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield disagrees. "This administration can be a little defensive for a moment," he said. "We've had three pay raises in a row."

So the mayor denies the latest increase is unfair.

"The three-percent raise was intended to make sure everybody got something on their check on January 1," Littlefield said.

The mayor wants the city to delay making any pay changes for now.

The city has commissioned a pay study to help determine pay equality, and it's due in October. The price of the study: nearly $200,000.

A union representative say there's no time to wait.

"The disparity line between the lower incomes and the higher incomes is getting wider and wider and wider," said Jeff Berntsen with the Service Employees International Union.

So the S.E.I.U., along with other unions, wants a dollar-per-hour raise now for all city's 2,000 workers.

"That gives $2,080 a year for every employee," Berntsen said. "Somebody who's making $22,000 a year. Their raise is $600 under the current system now. Subtract insurance, that's unacceptable."

Councilman Jack Benson agrees, telling the mayor this Tuesday: "Come back with something that's not going to make the poor person on the lower end of the pay scale have to suffer."

His colleague, Dan Page, agrees with the mayor, saying the three-percent raise is the fairest way to raise incomes.

"Rather than look at lower paid people," Page said, "you have to look at job classification. It's unfortunate that some job classifications require very few skills."

Council voted Tuesday night on this issue, but the outcome was a 4-4 tie. Five votes are needed for a measure to pass.

The council decided to vote again next week once a full council is present.


Paramedics right to strike essentially questioned

The union that represents Calgary paramedics who are locked in a wage dispute with the city says it's not surprised the province is taking action to prevent a strike. The government has declared a public emergency to head off job action by 400 paramedics. Employment Minister Iris Evans says the move prevents a strike or lockout while a tribunal works on a binding settlement. She also says the government will consider this fall whether to remove the paramedics' right to strike by deeming them to be an essential service.

Bruce Robb with the Canadian Union of Public Employees says he's more concerned about the government permanently removing that right. N-D-P Leader Brian Mason says he's not opposed to protecting public safety by heading off job action. But he also says it would be wrong to permanently remove the workers' right to strike. The union has confirmed that it's seeking a 30-per-cent wage increase over three years for its members. The City of Calgary has offered 12 per cent over the same period.


Vancouver mayor takes hard line against strikers

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan remained defiant yesterday as opposition councillors called for an end to a full-scale municipal strike and appealed to the mayor to order the city's bargaining agents to reopen talks. David Hurford, the mayor's spokesman, said yesterday that Mr. Sullivan was willing to order talks to resume - "as long as the union is willing to reconsider the city's final offer" of a 39-month deal that would end weeks after the end of the 2010 Winter Games.

Workers rejected the city's offer by 89% in a vote last week. Opposition councillors lined up in front of Vancouver's city hall - playing to a lunchtime crowd of striking workers gathered in the sun - to demand Mr. Sullivan stop "holding the citizens hostage to the Olympics." "You don't settle by not talking," said Councillor David Cadman. "The Mayor is taking a very hard line."

"When he abandons negotiations, he abandons the citizens of Vancouver," added Councillor Loretta Woodcock.

Inside workers, members of CUPE Local 15, walked out early on Monday, joining outside workers and raising the total number of city employees on the picket lines to 5,300. Members of CUPE Local 1004, representing outside workers, began job action last Thursday, calling a full strike Friday.

The labour dispute has closed the doors of Vancouver's community centres, seniors' programs, swimming pools and libraries, and weekly garbage collection has been suspended.

A civic strike also began in the District of North Vancouver on Monday, with about 400 municipal workers and another 400 employees of the North Vancouver Recreation Commission -- which operates pools and community centres --on picket lines.

Both Vancouver and the North Vancouver district had been negotiating within the labour relations bureau of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, which has been unwilling to offer anything beyond a 9.75% increase over a 39-month term.

The City of Vancouver has indicated the unions have been seeking an 18% wage increase over an unspecified term.

In an interview yesterday, Keith Graham, chief negotiator for CUPE 15, congratulated the city of Richmond on deal it struck with its workers yesterday, saying its impact could be felt at the Vancouver table, should talks resume.

"Our members will certainly look at that as something that they may want to look towards as well," he said.

Jerry Dobrovolny, spokesman for the City of Vancouver, had no comment on the issue.

The main difference between Richmond and Vancouver is that, since 2000, Richmond has opted to bargain with its unions directly, rather than through the GVRD LRB process.

In that time, the city has signed off on two contracts, including yesterday's tentative deal, with no labour disruptions.

"In our first labour negotiation four years ago, we were able, after just two or three days of bargaining, to reach an agreement.

"That is an almost unheard of amount of time," said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

Richmond's 2003 deal was considered groundbreaking by unions around the Lower Mainland because it spanned four years, when other municipalities, at the time, were negotiating three-year terms.

Mr. Brodie said the city agreed to the longer term believing it was necessary to ensure labour peace and satisfaction in the city. "With three years, it almost seems you just finish negotiations and you're back into it," he said.

Mr. Brodie declined comment on the latest five-year term, but said it was "possible" the tentative deal could serve as a template to other cities in the region.

The City of Surrey is also negotiating with its civic staff outside of the GVRD process, and is poised to announce a deal shortly.


Calif. nurses picket, positioned to strike

Nurses at three nonprofit hospitals will picket Thursday as contract negotiations with their parent company, Catholic Healthcare West, have snagged over issues of pay, health benefits and state-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios. French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria are among nine CHW hospitals negotiating with the California Nurses Association.

The planned picket is not a strike, but local California Nurses Association members have authorized one if negotiations don’t progress. Their contract will expire Friday after an extension was granted in June. Association members renewed bargaining discussions Tuesday and today with CHW officials.

CHW released a statement Tuesday saying it is confident the negotiations will result in a mutually acceptable contract, and “CHW Central Coast area hospitals will continue to maintain a strong, positive relationship with all employees.”

Before heading to the negotiations in Pasadena, Vicki Bryant, a nurse at French for seven years, wasn’t optimistic she would return Thursday with a resolution.

“Nobody really wants to strike,” she said. “However, we are positioned to strike.”


CHW’s 42 hospitals in California, Nevada and Arizona constitute the eighth-largest hospital system in the nation. It is the largest not-for-profit hospital provider in California.

Central Coast nurses earn much less than those at other CHW hospitals, despite equally high living costs, said Ticity Wilding, a nurse at Arroyo Grande since 2003. Lower wages make it impossible to keep new graduates, she said.

“We keep (new graduates) as interns and train them for two years,” Wilding said, “and then they leave.”

Because of the difficulty in recruiting and retaining full-time nurses, Wilding and Bryant said, local hospitals are using more traveling and registry nurses than ever. That’s bad, they said, because transient employees don’t have the same vested interest in the community.

But Megan Maloney, a spokeswoman for local CHW hospitals, said the union’s statement wasn’t accurate and that “all CHW Central Coast hospitals maintain a less than 5 percent traveler base.”

Patient care

The nurses are also fighting to include state-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in the new contract but said hospital officials have refused.

The ratio laws, enacted in 2004 and upheld by the state Supreme Court in 2005, call for a minimum of one licensed nurse for every five patients on medical, surgery and mixed units.

Wilding and Bryant said French and Arroyo Grande hospitals do not always follow the ratios.

“We are consistently over ratio,” Wilding said.

Putting the ratio in contracts would allow nurses to protest immediately if hospitals don’t adhere to it, rather than waiting on state regulators, they said.

Maloney said the hospitals believe specific negotiations belong at the bargaining table and not in the media.

But she addressed the claim that the hospitals are frequently understaffed, saying, “All Central Coast CHW hospitals are committed to adhering to the nurse-to-patient staffing ratios as defined by state law, and providing the highest level of patient care.”

Nurses from local Tenet Healthcare Corp. hospitals will join the CHW nurses on the picket lines, said Sherri Stoddard, a nurse at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and union board member.

The union is fighting for similar benefits, salary and patient care standards in negotiations with Tenet, and wants to include the state’s nurse-to-patient ratio in the contract, she said.

Nurse wages are similar at local Tenet and CHW hospitals, Stoddard said, and both are significantly lower than the rest of the state.


Strike could cost housing developers $30,000/day

Developers of big housing projects could face losses as high as $30,000 a day as a result of today's strike by Vancouver's inside civic workers, says the Urban Development Institute. "That's the daily holding cost for a major downtown project," said executive director Maureen Enser, referring to delays in planning and inspection approvals due to a strike. "For a townhouse project [outside the downtown], it could be $2,500 a day." Those holding costs will ultimately be passed on to homebuyers, she said.

Paul Faoro, the CUPE Local 15 boss representing 2,500 inside workers, said last night the workers will go on strike this morning. "If the strike goes more than a week, it's going to have a really serious impact," Enser said. "Developers can't let their teams go - they will have to hold them."

Enser said the city's planners and building inspectors were already working flat out dealing with projects related to the 2010 Olympics and Canada Line. "When they do go back to work, there's going to be a backlog. [A strike] will aggravate their workload," she said.

The inside workers will be joining about 2,000 outside workers who went on strike Friday. The outside workers are responsible for collecting garbage and running parks, daycares and community centres.

The city's 600 non-union management staff will try to maintain priority services such as parking enforcement and repairing broken traffic signals.

Organizers of the HSBC Celebration of Light fireworks competition, which starts Wednesday, called on people attending the event not to leave garbage behind. Police and firefighters will not be on strike and will still be monitoring the four-night event.

"This is the opportunity for the public to show their support of the event by honouring the beach and the community that they're going into. Take your garbage with you," said fireworks spokeswoman Alicia Maluta.

Vancouver Pride organizers also depend on city garbage workers to pick up trash following their annual parade. But they say they're more worried about garbage left behind from the fireworks finale than they are about the garbage their revellers leave behind. The competition ends the night before the Aug. 5 Pride Parade.

"Our event tends to be a much more community-spirited event," said Ken Coolen, parade director. "We've never had any vandalism or violence, or anything of that sort, whereas you know the [fireworks are] always troubled with lots of commotions of various degrees."


Vancouver union strikes at height of tourist season

While Vancouver's streets get dirtier and home-construction faces potential delays, residents of suburban Richmond breathed easier Tuesday after a tentative agreement between their city and its municipal workers. The deal between Richmond and two locals of the Canadian Union of Public Employees won't be made public until it's ratified later this week.

But in praising the deal, CUPE chief negotiator Robin Jones made a pointed reference to the stalemated situation across the Fraser River in Vancouver, where about 6,000 people were off the job. "This agreement shows that where there is a will to bargain, there is a way to a contract," he said in a news release.

"We are an Olympic host city, we have Olympic venues this agreement shines a light on what is possible when there is a desire by the employer to also bargain a fair agreement."

Vancouver and its CUPE-represented workers have been sniping at each other since before walkouts began late last week.

Just as the summer tourist season reaches its crescendo, visitors and residents are facing the prospect of steaming piles of fetid trash and closed public washrooms, swimming pools, city golf courses, daycares and libraries.

Mayor Sam Sullivan has accused the union of wanting to hold the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympics hostage by refusing to accept a 39-month contract term that expires just after the Games.

Union leaders have angrily rejected the charge and said they're prepared to accept a 48-month deal, which the mayor rejected because it potentially overlaps contract talks with scheduled municipal elections.

Richmond, which has a population of about 750,000, will host Olympic speed-skating events at a new venue now under construction.

CUPE local 15 boss Paul Faoro, who speaks for Vancouver's 3,500 inside workers, said he'll be interested to see what contract length Richmond and its employees settled on.

"Richmond is also an Olympic city because there is the Richmond ice rink that's being built there," he said. "There's issues that are very similar to Richmond and Vancouver."

Port Moody, a small suburb east of Vancouver, earlier reached a 39-month settlement with its roughly 100 employees. But Faoro said it's hardly revelant to Vancouver, where more than 5,000 inside and outside workers are on strike.

"It's comparing apples and oranges," he said.

North Vancouver District's services are also shut down, affecting more than 80,000 residents.

And Vancouver's librarians began rotating work stoppages Tuesday.

Vancouver residents began feeling the impact of the walkouts Friday when garbage collection stopped.

The city is offering advice on how to safely store waste if the strike drags on for weeks. At least one private trash contractor is offering discount prices for residents to haul their garbage away.

While everything from swimming pools to recreation centres are shuttered, the city is keeping service centres for the poor and homeless in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside open.

The city's booming construction industry is bracing for a slowdown if the strike goes on for weeks, as it did in 1997 and 2000.

New building permits, inspections and zoning applications have all been disrupted.

Some commercial developments won't be hit right away because the city has a program allowing certified professionals, such as architects or engineers, to conduct inspections for projects under the national building code.

"So on some of the larger projects, the non-residential projects, it'll be some time before the impact will be felt," said Keith Sashaw, a staff member at the Vancouver Regional Construction Association.

"On the residential side of things it'll be a bit more immediate because it usually is the municipal building inspector that does those inspections."

Sashaw added the industry anticipated the city's labour troubles and fast-tracked some permits.

Everything from new-home construction to minor renovations could be delayed without inspectors or city crews to hook up water and sewer connections, he said.

Many contractors have the option of shifting work outside Vancouver as long as labour troubles don't spread to the suburbs, Sashaw said.

CUPE's Faoro said he regrets the disruption to people's lives and businesses but blames the city for refusing the union's invitation to return to bargaining after members ovewhelmingly voted down Vancouver's last offer.

"When they told us on Friday that they weren't prepared to go through the weekend ... it was absolutely shocking," he said.

Management blames the union for refusing to budge on the contract term and for tabling unrealistic wage demands.

The City is warning drivers to keep plugging parking meters because it intends to make that revenue source a priority. Vancouver gets $25 million to $30 million in revenue from parking meters.

If the last two municipal employee walkouts since 1997 are any indication, the strike could last up to two months.

Besides almost 600,000 residents in Vancouver, another 80,000 people living in the District of North Vancouver are being hit by job action from their municipal employees.

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