The prospect of municipal employees being locked out of their workplace today (Thursday) has been averted – for now.
A tentative agreement in contract talks involving the Town and local representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) was announced on Wednesday.
“After a long and challenging round of negotiations, the Town of Maple Creek and CUPE Local 2714, with the assistance of a mediator appointed by the Province, have reached a tentative agreement for a three-year term,” the Town said in a media release yesterday (October 6).
“The Town will continue to provide municipal services and look forward to serving the residents of the Town of Maple Creek in a positive and productive manner”
Later, CUPE confirmed that a tentative three-year agreement had been reached after an emergency bargaining session with a provincial mediator.
“We are pleased that the town removed their harmful concessions,” said Dave Stevenson, CUPE National Representative. “We were able to achieve a collective agreement for our members without the town imposing a disruption of services.”
The union will be conducting their ratification vote on October 19, and the Town Council will be considering the matter at their October 26 meeting.
“Our members will continue to work hard to deliver the public services residents of Maple Creek depend on,” said Chesarae Lyman, president of CUPE Local 2714.
Before the meeting, the Town said it planned to lock workers out on midnight on October 6, a move authorized by The Saskatchewan Employment Act.
Council feels employees are compensated fairly
The Collective Agreement with our town employees who are members of CUPE Local 2714 expired on December 31, 2020. The Town’s Negotiating Committee commenced bargaining in February 2021 and held further negotiations on six different occasions in the hopes of settling a collective agreement. During the bargaining process, the parties agreed on some language changes; and on April 29, 2021, the Union presented an Offer of Settlement.
In their April 29 Offer of Settlement, the Union requested among other things wage increases of 1.75%, 1.75% and 2% for three years plus 24 hours of paid family related caregiver leave. In response, the Employer provided the Union with two options that included a three-year agreement with wage increases of 1.5% per year (4.5%) and no additional paid leave and a second option that included 24 hours of paid family caregiver leave in exchange for the removal of a $300 annual benefit allowance and wage increases of 1.25%, 1.5%, 1.5% and 2% (6.25%) for a four-year agreement with some minor changes to the hours of work language to provide flexibility for seasonal and leisure staff.
As no settlement was achieved the Town presented a final offer on June 9, 2021, that provided a 1.5% increase to employees wages for three years (4.5%). This was rejected by the Union and on July 8, 2021, the Union provided the Minister of Labour notice of impasse that an agreement could not be reached and in accordance with the legislation the parties were required to attempt to mediate a resolution through a provincially appointed Labour Relations Officer.
The parties met on September 20 and 21 with the Labour Relations Officer. The Town presented two offers to the Union, both of which were rejected and the Union presented a final offer of 24 hours of paid caregiver leave, and wage increases of 1.75%, 2% and 2% for three years (5.75%).
The Town Council feels that their offers of 4.5% over 3 years or 6.25% over 4 years were reasonable especially in consideration of the many, many benefits already provided in the agreement which include:
• A 9% matched contribution defined benefit pension plan;
• A comprehensive benefit package that includes health, dental, short and long-term disability, accidental death and dismemberment and life insurance and 60% is employer paid and 40% employee paid;
• Paid sick leave of up to 18 days per year and accumulate to 196 working days;
• Severance payout of sick leave on retirement;
• 14 paid holidays while the current legislation in Saskatchewan only provides for 10 paid statutory holiday days;
• $300 cash benefit payment per year;
• $300 boot allowance per year;
• Paid bereavement and compassionate care leave;
• An employer funded Employee and Family Assistance Program;
• Top up to full wages for up to one year if on WCB;
• 15% pay increase when employees are performing higher duties; and
• Shift differential from 5pm to 8am and standby pay of $30-$50/day.
On October 1, 2021, the Union provided notice to the Town that its members had voted 100% in favour of job action including a full withdrawal of services.
As Council believes the employees have outstanding benefits and are compensated in a fair way, the Town has determined that it will lock the employees out on midnight October 6, 2021 as provided for in The Saskatchewan Employment Act. This lock out will impact the service levels to our residents and we thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to strive to work towards reaching an agreement that can be supported by our ratepayers and Council.
Negotiations have been tense
Contract talks between the Town of Maple Creek and CUPE Local 2714 have reached a boiling point. The town administration has sent notice that it plans to lock out municipal employees this Thursday if the union doesn’t agree to the harmful concessions on the table.
“Talks have been tense since the town brought in a high-priced labour consultant known for her attempts to strip collective agreement benefits,” said Dave Stevenson, CUPE National Representative. “The town wants to change hours of work, make changes to sick leave accrual, and eliminate monetary allowances.”
The two parties went through mandated mediation but talks broke down on September 21. On September 30, union membership voted 100% in favour of job action up to and including a full withdrawal of services.
“The union had no plans to withdraw services, and conducted a strike vote to illustrate that our membership is united and will not accept the employer’s concessions,” added Stevenson. “The local was hopeful that a strong strike mandate would encourage the town to get serious at the bargaining table. Instead of coming back to the table to talk, they issued a lock out notice.”
Union representatives have reached out to the employer and the mediator to schedule emergency bargaining dates. They have also requested that both parties agree that there be no work disruption until there is an opportunity to continue negotiations with a third-party mediator.
“Each and every day throughout the challenges of the pandemic, Local 2714 members have been on the front lines building and maintaining critical infrastructure and delivering public services that make our community strong. Our members want to continue this work without disruption,” said Chesarae Lyman, president of CUPE Local 2714. “But we need the town administration to come back to the table.”
CUPE Local 2714 represents 19 municipal workers at the Town of Maple Creek. Employees work as clerical staff, arena attendants, public works, pool staff, visitor centre attendant, caretakers, parks and cemetery staff and municipal enforcement officers.