At an impasse, Qualicum Beach council issued a 72-hour lockout notice to staff, effective at 3 p.m. Friday, July 31.
“Since negotiations started in April, the union started at two per cent per year and there hasn’t been any movement,” said Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Sailland, adding that it was council’s view that they were left with no other option.
“In their decision council made it clear we should remain available for any negotiating,” he said, with everyone hoping it can be resolved before the deadline.
“On Monday they brought back the exact same offer that the members rejected by 90 per cent,” said Laurence Amy, vice president of CUPE Local 401, which represents the roughly 50 union employees.
“We weren’t going to bring back the same offer they just rejected.”
Last Friday, union members voted to issue a strike notice as of Sunday, but the only action so far has been a ban on overtime. Amy said the employer’s move “leaves a lot of people out of work,” but that they also hope to keep negotiating.
“The union issued a ‘Notice of Overtime Ban’ essentially because we have 90 days to do something with the strike vote and this was the least disruptive way to allow work to get done while the parties go back to bargaining,” said Local 401 president Blaine Gurrie in a letter to the editor.
“Instead of bargaining, your new city manager decided to offer the workers the same thing that they had voted ‘no’ to and included an ultimatum that we had 24 hours to accept.”
“In my 15 years as the union rep for the town, we have always worked out our problems amicably and fairly,” Gurrie wrote. “Apparently Qualicum wants to be a different type of place now — where there are ‘sides’ — and we hate that term because it makes us polarized and adversarial. We asked that the employees receive the same as everyone else in the surrounding communities because that’s always kept bargaining short, cheap and fair,” he said, with Parksville employees recently accepting two per cent annual increases.
“We are honestly shocked that they have taken this step,” he added.
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.”
“We, as mayor and council, believe that being fair and reasonable to both citizens and employees includes consideration of the realities of the social, environmental and economic circumstances in which we live in,” says the release which is signed by all members of council.
It says that they want employees to have fair compensation, while not “burdening our citizens with excessive tax increases.”
It adds that the previous collective agreement resulted in cost increases of 11.3 per cent over three years, while inflation was 3.4 per cent.
The release says management was forced to issue the lockout notice in part because the strike action “creates uncertainty and disruption for our services and events,” that the seven exempt staff cannot work around.
There is an essential services order in place which will maintain areas of health and safety like fire and police services and some key areas around water, the airport and cemetery.
Municipal washrooms will be closed except on the beach and Veteran’s Way. The civic centre and community hall will also be closed except for existing bookings. Playing fields and trails will remain open with reduced services and the library will not be impacted.
Deputy chief administrative officer John Marsh previously said the key non-essential item will be garbage collection, which the remaining management personnel will have to try and maintain.
Sailland said the town will keep residents as informed as possible through their website and the media and people can call the office at 250-752-6921 if they require assistance.