Oakville outside workers set to strike at midnight

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Published November 1, 2023 at 4:23 pm

CUPE 136 rally

In less than eight hours, barring an immaculate negotiation, Oakville’s outside workers and facility operators will be on strike, resulting in the closure of most Town buildings, from arenas and community centres to dog parks, and the cancellation of recreational programs and services.

The Town repeated earlier statements today that it is “committed to reaching a fair and reasonable agreement” with 267 employees represented by CUPE 136 that” balances the needs of workers” with its responsibilities” to taxpayers.

“The Town does not want a strike and has no intention of locking out employees.”

Oakville CAO Jane Clohecy said the Town had offered to resume negotiations Thursday – after the strike deadline of midnight tonight had passed – after “promising discussions” with CUPE Local 136 leadership – but were turned down.

“The union had the option to not exercise the first opportunity to strike in order to resume negotiations and delay a strike,” she said.

The union, however, took a different view of the negotiations and said its members will be on strike as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, “because the Town chose to delay talks, rather than to come to the table and negotiate a fair deal and avoid a strike.”

The two sides tried the conciliation method but after three days without a resolution the Town and CUPE 136 “reached an impasse” and the Town requested a ‘No Board Report’ October 10, setting the stage for a possible strike.

Two days later the union members voted to strike, with the deadline set at November 2.

CUPE Local 136 President Peter Knafelc apologized to residents in advance of the strike for the disruptions that will happen and put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Town of Oakville’s senior management.

“We want to work, and we’re sorry the Town is putting you through this,” he said. “They requested the No Board report that initiated this and kept refusing to meet with us at the table. We encourage you to contact (senior management) and Town Council and remind them how important the services we provide are.”

As of Thursday morning all community centres and arenas will close and recreation and culture facility rentals and programs will be cancelled, fitness memberships will be paused and registered and drop-in programs will be paused or cancelled.

As well, loose leaf collection on residential roads will be cancelled and washrooms in parks, leash-free dog parks and the Field house at Bronte Athletic Field will be off-limits to the public. Leaf collection on primary and secondary roads will continue.

Oakville Transit, Town Hall (including ServiceOakville), the Oakville Museum and the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts will remain open.

All libraries, including those in town community centres, will stay open, though OPL Express services located inside community centres will be closed.

Programs and services at Sir John Colborne Recreation Centre for Seniors, Oakville Museum at Erchless Estate, and Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts will proceed as scheduled. Seniors’ services and programs and events at community centres, however, will be cancelled during the service disruption.

Garbage and blue box collection, which is maintained by Halton Region, is unaffected.

All facility rentals will also be cancelled but artificial turf sports field bookings will go ahead as fields remain open.

The unionized outside workers, who rallied Monday in support of the likely strike have been without a contract since the spring and Knafelc said the two sides are far apart on several key issues, with the rising cost of living and the Town’s failure to keep pace over the years at the heart of the impasse.

“The cost of housing, gas and groceries in Oakville has skyrocketed in recent years, and our wages haven’t come close to keeping up. As a result, the standard of living for town employees has been dropping year after year. It can’t continue,” he said “Oakville is one of the wealthiest communities in Canada. This is a municipality that can afford for its employees to keep up with inflation.”

The two sides are also at odds over restrictions on 12-hour shifts in winter operations that have “seriously compromised” employees’ work-life balance, Knafelc added.

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