Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

CUPE to fight city over forced unpaid days off

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The City of Winnipeg's largest union will file a grievance against a plan to force employees to take 31/2 unpaid days off between Christmas and New Year's Day.

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

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The city's operating budget for 2014 assumes savings of $1.5 million for forcing staff to take the unpaid days off around Christmas.

CUPE 500 president Mike Davidson said the unpaid days off would breach the contract and hamper the city's ability to deliver services in the winter.

"This will further burden the City of Winnipeg and will only intensify the problem," Davidson said. "Just because it's holiday season doesn't mean the city stops running."

Council finance chairman Russ Wyatt (Transcona), the architect of the unpaid days, said he expected the union to make 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.

Davidson also said he doesn't believe most councillors will support unpaid days off in the wake of a severe winter, during which the city struggled to clear snow, repair water-main breaks and thaw frozen water lines.

A majority of councillors, however, supported the cost-saving measure. The 2014 operating budget was approved by a 9-7 vote in December.

Wyatt warned CUPE will attempt to exercise more control over council by lending its logistical support to union-friendly candidates in the October election campaign.

"Let's be frank: Today, we have a city council that is directly or indirectly controlled by the union," he said.

"Considering this council fears challenging the union on issues they should be challenged on, you can bet the union will do everything it can to maintain that power or improve it in this fall's election."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 2, 2014 0

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