The union representing about 1,000 Capital Regional District employees is considering job action, potentially a strike, after contract negotiations with the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association stalled. (Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS)

CRD staff could look to job action after mediation fails

Over 1,000 employees could partake in reduced hours, walk-outs

Representatives of the Capital Regional District and CRD employees were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract last week during a mediation attempt in Victoria.

The Greater Victoria Labour Relation Association, representing the CRD, and CUPE 1978 — which represents approximately 1,000 CRD employees — were in negotiations on a new deal, but could not agree on one major point: a raise to the 14-per-cent hourly premium paid in lieu of benefits to the roughly 500 auxiliary workers.

“It’s an additional payment to offset the lack of benefits they receive,” said CUPE 1978 president Rick Illi. “As an auxiliary worker they receive no sick time, no extended health … this premium is to help with that.”

While Illi said the union is looking for a “modest” increase, the subject is a sticking point in negotiations.

“We have a difference of opinion in terms of where that number should be,” said Kevin Murdoch, board chair of the GVLRA.

ALSO READ: CRD communities pull the plug on Saanich fire dispatch

An application by CUPE 1978 and the GVLRA was filed to the Labour Relations board on Monday to determine what essential services must still be provided by employees if job action is taken.

This process takes into account the roles that could not partake in any job action — such as a walkout — because it would put the health and safety of the general public at risk. These positions might include senior staff at water treatment or sewage treatment facilities, or 911 operators.

CUPE members voted 93 per cent in favour of a strike several weeks ago, in case negotiations come to a standstill. CUPE would still need to issue a 72-hour strike notice should they choose to take action, however, Illi said a strike is something they want to avoid if they can.

RELATED: CRD CUPE members vote overwhelmingly in favour of strike

“It could be as simple as an overtime ban, which would have no disruption of services,” he said. “At the far end is a full-scale job action, such as a strike. It’s not our intention to do that, we’re hopeful not going to do that.”

Murdoch said the GVLRA’s hope is to “avoid any form of labour action and reach the table and get to something that is mutually agreeable.” He added that at this point the ball is in CUPE 1978’s court.

“We’re focused frankly on getting a deal, and asking how do we find some resolution to this,” Murdoch said. “But, we also have to maintain our mandate to our client.”

Illi said the GVLRA simply didn’t want to negotiate.

“It’s kind of baffling for us why they don’t want to have a discussion,” he said. “All we’re hoping to have is a meaningful discussion and an improvement for a significant number of employees. But, a dialogue requires two.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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