‘Frustrated’ civic workers’ union ramps up strike preparations
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The largest union of city workers is poised to strike.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500, which represents about 4,900 city employees, has instructed its members to sign up for picket duty following the failure of the most recent round of contract negotiations.
City and union representatives met for conciliation talks last Thursday and Friday in efforts to arrive at a new labour deal for the workers, who’ve been without a contract since February 2021.
“Taking strike action is always a last resort, but it appears we are headed in that direction,” union president Gord Delbridge said in a statement to members from the bargaining committee late Friday. “While we don’t have a strike deadline set, we are continuing our strike preparations in the event that job action cannot be avoided.”
Attempts to reach Delbridge for comment were unsuccessful Monday. He has previously said the sticking point is wages. The committee said the city made little movement in the conciliation talks.
“We realize our members are extremely frustrated, as is your bargaining committee with the lack of progress made to conclude this round of negotiations. Our goal remains to get you the best agreement possible that values the work you do and services you provide to the citizens of Winnipeg,” the statement reads.
Negotiations began in March 2021. On July 12, CUPE 500 members voted 93 per cent to strike, and opened their Portage Avenue strike headquarters last week.
On Monday, CUPE flags and banners could be seen at the headquarters, where a sign in the window read: “Good jobs, fair wages.” Another read: “fair deal now.”
A city spokesman said little when asked for comment, citing the ongoing bargaining.
“The city remains committed to making every reasonable effort to successfully negotiate an agreement with CUPE,” corporate communications manager David Driedger said in an emailed statement.
Municipal workers have not struck since 1919, when the Winnipeg General Strike brought the city to a standstill for six weeks.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.
Updated on Monday, September 19, 2022 5:04 PM CDT: photo changed