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CUPE files grievance against city over unpaid days off in December

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The City of Winnipeg's largest union is filing a grievance over a plan to force employees to take three and a half unpaid days off between Christmas and New Year's Day.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 has given the city notice of a grievance over what the union believes is a violation of the collective agreement.

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The city's operating budget for 2014 assumes savings of $1.5 million by forcing staff to take the unpaid days off at Christmas, $2 million by reducing professional and middle-management positions and $14.1 million by freezing job vacancies.

CUPE 500 president Mike Davidson claimed the unpaid days off would not just be a breach of contract, but would hamper the city's ability to deliver services in the middle of the winter.

"Just because it’s holiday season, doesn’t mean the city stops running," Davidson said in a phone interview from Ottawa.

Council finance chairman Russ Wyatt (Transcona), the architect of the unpaid days, said he expected such a move.

"We live in a big government and big union city and province, where public-sector unions and their bosses have a disproportionate level of power," Wyatt said. "With their friends in our top management, it was only a matter of time to see them file a grievance. Not only that, they were probably encouraged to do so."

Wyatt declined to elaborate on the identity of the city officials in question.

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