The deal that avoided a strike by the city’s largest union is a 50-month contract with minimum wage increases in the first three years and what appears to be a wage freeze in the final year.
A highlight of the tentative agreement between CUPE 500 and the City of Winnipeg has been posted on the union’s website and includes:
Fifty-month contract, Dec. 25, 2016-Feb. 28, 2021
Effective Dec. 27, 2017 – 1.5 per cent; Dec. 27, 2018, 1.5 per cent; Oct. 31, 2019, 1.5 per cent
No provision for wage increases in 2020
The last wage increase for CUPE 500 members was a two per cent bump on Dec. 27, 2015. The tentative deal means CUPE 500 workers will have gone two years without a wage increase.
The message to members from the bargaining team implies they feel this is the best deal it could get from the city and is recommending it be accepted.
"While we are not happy with the wage increase, it would not be a responsible move on our part to take you out on strike with no guarantee of an improved outcome," the memo to members states. "Your Local 500 bargaining committee is unanimous in our recommendation that you ACCEPT the tentative offer from the City."
Gord Delbridge, president of CUPE 500, said the deal presented to members does not contain any concessions, which stands in contrast to the proposal members rejected May 24 that was riddled with a variety of concessions.
Once those concessions were removed and wage increases improved, the bargaining team concluded this was the best deal its members were going to get and there was no guarantee they would see any improvements with a strike, Delbridge said.
"If we went out on strike, would it be worth it — pretty unlikely," Delbridge told the Free Press, adding there was a concern that if civic staff did strike, city council would appeal to the provincial government to legislate them back to work and impose a settlement that wouldn't be as good as the deal they are recommending to workers.
"We would take quite a gamble going on strike in hopes of getting what? We've got no concessions. What more do we need — could we get another (one per cent increase) by going on strike compared to the salary we'd lose every week if we did go?"
Delbridge conceded that both firefighters and police secured deals with better wage increases, but added this offer has the narrowest wage percentage gap in over a decade.
The Winnipeg Police Association secured a five-deal with wage increases of 2.5 per cent in each of the first three years, and a combined 2.5 per cent in two installments in each of the remaining two years.
The United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg secured a four-year contract with a 1.8 per cent increase in the first year and annual increases of 2 per cent in each of the remaining three years.
However, CUPE 500 is the only civic union among those three that did not get a wage increase in the final year of its contract.
CUPE 500 is holding three information sessions today at the RBC Convention Centre: 9 a.m., 12 noon, and 6 p.m.
Voting on the deal takes place Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 pm, at the RBC Convention Centre.
Coun. Scott Gillingham, chairman of council's finance committee, offered little comment about the union's public disclosure of the terms.
"I believe the tentative agreement is fair for all parties," Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands-Weston) said. "I await the results of the CUPE 500 vote tomorrow before commenting further."
CUPE 500 represents about 4,600 civic workers employed in most departments across the City of Winnipeg.
Bargaining talks aren’t over for city hall. Three other union groups are still without a contract and a fourth expires in August.
The city’s middle managers, represented by the Winnipeg Association of Public Service Officers (WAPSO) have been without a contract since October 2015. The Winnipeg Police Seniors Officers Association agreement expired at the end of December. The contract with paramedics, represented by the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU) expired in mid-February of this year.
The agreement with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Senior Officers Association expires in August.