With no talks scheduled, Oakville’s outside workers set to strike Thursday morning

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Published October 31, 2023 at 10:24 am

It’s looking more likely that unionized outside workers at the Town of Oakville will be hitting the picket lines Thursday as negotiators from the Town have so far declined invitations to return to the bargaining table.

“Enough is enough,” the CUPE 136 negotiating team said in a statement, with the negotiating committee and union executive calling on all its members to go on strike “if we do not have a collective agreement by 12:01 a.m. on November 2.”

The union team believes it is “highly likely” there will be a strike and puts the blame for the contract impasse squarely on the shoulders of the municipal government.

This would be the first time the 285 outside workers represented by CUPE have gone to the picket lines.

“Make no mistake, the Town will bear the responsibility for this strike. It is the Town that decided to put us in a lawful strike position. It is the Town that still refuses to return to the table to bargain, despite anything else you may have read,” the union said, adding that the Town found the time to negotiate with its inside staff but not those represented by Local 136.  “The Town may tell you they are committed to negotiating a collective agreement … but the truth is it will not get back to the table to bargain.

The union also accused the Town of resorting to direct communications with the public instead of negotiations “in an attempt to divide and conquer.”

“In these circumstances – when we are in a lawful strike position with no collective agreement in effect and the employer won’t even bargain with us – we have little choice but to exercise our democratic right to strike,” the statement continued. “Do not accept the employer’s communications about bargaining as gospel.”

The union said the Town’s latest offer on wages falls “well short” of recent municipal agreements reached – without a strike – in Wellington, Waterloo, Hydro Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Burlington and despite a $500 signing bonus does not keep up with inflation.

The two sides continue to squabble over the use of temporary employees in arenas and over holiday pay – specifically for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – and over 12-hour shift times for winter operations.

“The use of 12-hour shifts in winter operations is wasteful, completely unnecessary and imposes a very serious and unnecessary burden on our winter control employees, who are burdened by extensive mandatory standby as a result,” the union’s negotiating team stated. “The employer told us a few years ago that we could get rid of the 12 hour shift in this collective agreement if we did not want it and we do not.”

Other issues include generic drugs; seniority when filling temporary vacancies; restrictions on mandatory overtime and standby; daily hour limits; and health and dental provisions.

If there is a strike, arenas and community centres, including pools, will be closed to the public. All libraries, including those in town community centres, will remain open. Seasonal washrooms in town parks and leash-free dog parks will also be closed.

Other impacted areas and services include recreation and culture programs, as well as parks, roads and works operations.

“The Town claims it wants to reach a deal. If so, they should return to the bargaining table and make a reasonable offer as soon as possible,” CUPE Local 136’s negotiating team said. “In the meantime, we will be ready to bargain, but on strike, for the first time ever, starting at 12:01 am on Thursday.”

Contract talks began in April.

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