Residents of Saint John are on the edge as city workers represented by CUPE have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a potential strike. With nearly 140 inside workers supporting the strike action, concerns are rising about the impact it could have on public services.
The union members, who cover a wide range of departments within the city, have been without a contract since December 2021. Negotiations have hit an impasse, with CUPE accusing the city of offering a contract that falls below the cost of living and violates wage escalation policies.
CUPE Local 486 President, Brittany Doyle, expressed frustration over the city’s approach, stating, “The city is intent on enforcing a contract that falls below the cost of living and violates the city’s own wage escalation policy.”
Mike Davidson, CUPE’s national service representative, emphasized that strike action would inevitably disrupt city services. However, the union is willing to give the city another chance to return to the bargaining table before proceeding with the strike.
The potential strike could affect essential services provided by union members, including police/fire/911 dispatch, customer service, bylaw enforcement, permitting, recreation, court services, financial services, administrative support, and IT and technical roles.
City managers have already started taking precautionary measures, including training personnel to take over dispatching services. However, the impact on the public could result in longer wait times for accessing non-emergency police services.
In response to the strike vote, the city issued a statement claiming to have a “fair and reasonable offer” on the table. They further denied allegations that their offer is not compliant with the council’s wage escalation policy. The city emphasized the importance of budget constraints and ensuring that wage increases are affordable for taxpayers.
While both sides remain at odds, the city has assured the public that contingency plans are in place to minimize the disruption to essential services. Emergency operations, including 911, will continue without interruption.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: What is CUPE?
A: CUPE stands for the Canadian Union of Public Employees. It is one of Canada’s largest unions and represents workers in various sectors, including municipal, health care, education, and more.
Q: How many workers are represented by CUPE Local 486?
A: CUPE Local 486 represents nearly 140 inside workers employed across multiple city departments in Saint John.
Q: Why are city workers considering a strike?
A: City workers are considering a strike due to an impasse in contract negotiations. They argue that the city’s offered contract falls below the cost of living and violates wage escalation policies.
Q: How will the potential strike impact public services?
A: The potential strike may disrupt essential public services provided by union members, leading to longer wait times for accessing non-emergency police services. Emergency operations, including 911, will continue without interruption.
Q: What are the city’s contingency plans?
A: The city has implemented contingency plans to minimize the disruption to public services in the event of a strike. They are training personnel to take over duties such as dispatching services and ensuring that emergency operations remain unaffected.