Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Unions open fire on city budget

Forced leaves, St. Vital councillor's yea top targets

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Organized labour is developing strategies to tackle the city's 2014 budget, which it views as anti-worker.

The operating budget narrowly passed city council this week on a 9-7 vote and calls for the temporary layoffs of hundreds of non-essential civic workers for 3.5 days next Christmas, eliminates 20 professional and middle-management positions and freezes job vacancies, all to save $14.1 million.

Labour will use councillors' voting records in campaigns leading up to the Oct. 22, 2014 civic election.

"We'll be holding councillors to account and we'll be showing their voting records to their constituents," said David Sauer, president of the 47,000-member Winnipeg Labour Council.

Mike Davidson, president of CUPE Local 500, which represents most civic workers, said he was disappointed with how Mayor Sam Katz and his executive policy committee put the budget together without consulting the union to see whether alternative measures could be found.

Davidson said Local 500 has worked with civic administrations for 100 years, adding he's mystified why EPC decided to target civic employees this year.

"In many cases, we've been a problem-solver" in the past, Davidson said. "We've got a good track record of doing that."

Sauer said the forced, 3.5-day unpaid leave between next Christmas Eve and New Year's Day will have the biggest impact on civic workers.

Davidson said Local 500 has a no-layoff clause for permanent workers in its collective agreement, adding he envisions a grievance would be filed if the forced layoff goes ahead. If successful, such a grievance could see all affected workers reimbursed for lost wages.

Sauer and Davidson said they were disappointed St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes, a member of EPC, voted for the budget. They said they were not surprised Katz and others voted for it but were not expecting Mayes to back it. He was elected in a 2011 byelection and the labour council endorsed him.

At city council, Mayes said he didn't agree with the measures affecting employees, but still supported the budget, adding he hoped to work with the unions and find alternatives to the unpaid leaves before they happen.

"I will continue to work with labour on a number of issues and to rebuild any bridges that got burned," Mayes told the Free Press Wednesday. "The budget is a package deal, which requires a yes/no vote on the whole package, some aspects of which I opposed."

Sauer and Davidson said they credit Mayes for a budget measure that will create six new security positions for Winnipeg Transit, but both said his support of the other measures was disappointing.

"I had numerous discussions with Coun. Mayes on what our concerns were," Sauer said, adding Mayes' record will be considered if he asks for the labour council's endorsement in next year's election.

Davidson said the city doesn't have enough staff to do the work citizens expect them to do, and the budget measures will only worsen the situation.

"I'm disappointed (with Mayes), absolutely," Davidson said. "He voted for that. It's very difficult to accept that. How can you possibly agree to that?"

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2013 B3


Updated on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 10:11 AM CST: Corrects spelling of David Sauer

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