Locked out Qualicum Beach town employee Ben Miller, a father of two, is calling on council to “get back to the table and figure it out” so he can get back to work.
“I’m here today to get parity,” a frustrated Miller told The NEWS Friday afternoon outside Qualicum Beach town hall just after being locked out. “We just want to be treated fairly like every other municipality.”
Last week, Qualicum council issued a 72-hour lockout notice to staff effective 3 p.m. Friday.
This comes after the union issued a ‘Notice of Overtime Ban’ and voted to issue a strike notice.
Just after 3 p.m. about 70 people showed up to rally support for the 66 municipal workers who were locked out right before the long weekend.
CUPE Local 401 vice president Laurence Amy said the only outstanding issue is wages.
“The current mayor and council have refused to give their public employees the same modest two per-cent per-year wage settlement just like surrounding municipalities,” Amy said, adding the lockout is a first in Qualicum Beach.
Eighteen-year-old Ellen Munroe, a summer student working in the town’s parks yard, attended Friday’s rally because “we’re locked out and I want to work.”
Munroe, a Kwalikum Secondary graduate, is saving up this summer to go to UBC in the fall for her first year of university. She said if she knew there was going to be a lockout, she would have found a different summer job to save up for school.
“It’s totally frustrating,” she said with a sign draped around her neck reading: ‘Kicked out of our job site, we just want to work.’
CUPE B.C. secretary-treasurer Paul Faoro was quick to blame Qualicum Beach mayor Teunis Westbroek for the labour disruption.
“This is on his lap, this is on his watch,” Faoro told the crowd passionately. “This is one of the first lockouts on this Island and it’s under his watch — this is ridiculous.”
According to a council news release, “the town made genuine attempts to come to a negotiated resolution,” including mediation, increasing the offer and adding an $1,800 signing bonus, but said “the union is fixated on getting a minimum of two per cent a year as well as other concessions.”
The Town issued a news release confirming the labour disruption will significantly impact municipal operations. Municipal washrooms except on Beach and Veteran’s Way will be closed and the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre and Community Hall will be closed except for existing bookings. Residential/commercial garbage pickup, town services, playgrounds, trails and the Qualicum Beach cemetery will remain open, some in reduced capacity. Due to an essential service order fire, police, airport and key water services will be unaffected. The RDN issued a release confirming Ravensong Aquatic Centre will continue to operate on schedule and transit will be unaffected. For more updates visit www.qualicumbeach.com.