Council eyes changes to union bargain process

Sooke council recently amended a motion to extend services to an outside contractor.

Sooke council may look at how the district handles its collective bargaining process, after it recently amended a motion to extend services to an outside contractor.

The contract with Morwenna Holdings Ltd., the company of former interim fire chief Russ Cameron, was extended from Jan. 30 to March 31 this year, but with the condition that no more than the staff-suggested $10,000 be spent on bargaining.

“We had thought that we might be finished with bargaining earlier than what we’d expected, and that things would be locked and loaded now, and they’re not,” said District of Sooke chief administrative officer Teresa Sullivan.

Sullivan added Morwenna is also assisting Sooke Fire Chief Kenn Mount with this year’s budget, as his position is still relatively new.

“Morwenna has been working diligently with our director of finance to create a budget for 2017 and looking forth … those are the two pieces of work that he’s continuing to assist the district with.”

The bargaining extension sparked some concern with Coun. Rick Kasper that the bills would become easily innumerable.

“The way it’s adding up right now, we could be spending a fortune,” Kasper said, adding that this has been extended before. “I’m at the point right now saying, stop it. We’re not going to bargain any more.”

District staff also revealed the funds would come from the council contingency’s remaining $28,636.82. As such, other councillors, such as Coun. Bev Berger, suggested it would be proactive to have funds set aside that are strictly for bargaining.

“What troubled me is that it’s coming through council contingency and it will just leave us with $18,000 for the rest of the year, and we’re only two months into the year,” Berger said.

“I think council contingency is some of those hardship things that come to council and would really like to help other service groups or members to get things going.”

Sullivan pointed out the current bargaining team is the best bang for the buck so far.

“We have hired professionals who understand the fire services, who have had tons of experience negotiating,” Sullivan said, adding that the upfront costs of negotiating with a solid team is going to save the district money over time.

Mayor Maja Tait also agreed with amending the motion, adding that bargaining in small municipalities will be a top priority of discussion at an upcoming conference, which will look at the bargaining piece and how it’s affecting local governments.