CBRM outside workers may strike after contract talks break down

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Cape Breton Regional Municipality's outside workers could be on strike by Christmas, unless new talks can break the current impasse over employee wages. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
Cape Breton Regional Municipality's outside workers could be on strike by Christmas, unless new talks can break the current impasse over employee wages. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Cape Breton Regional Municipality's outside workers could be on strike before Christmas after contract talks broke down this week between the municipality and its unionized transit, public works and recreation employees.

CUPE Local 759 executives hammered out a tentative agreement with CBRM management last week, but union president Kevin Ivey said the members overwhelmingly voted it down on Sunday.

"It wasn't close. I'll be honest, the numbers were high," he said.

Ivey said the workers, who have been without a contract since October 2020, simply wanted a better wage offer.

He said the rejection was not necessarily a vote of non-confidence in the union executive.

"We kind of took it as ... we've got to go back to the table," Ivey said. "There's more work to be done and hopefully there's a deal to be had."

Strike not certain

The union is in a two-week cooling off period under Nova Scotia labour law and is waiting for a final conciliator's report.

"It doesn't mean we are going on strike," Ivey said.

"It means after the 14 days and the report is filed, we have the option of walking, or they have an option of locking us out. It's either or. But hopefully we decide and we get back to the table and maybe there's discussion to be had."

Ivey said unless something changes, the union could be on strike after that period ends.

"If we don't go back to the table, I think that's probably where we lie," he said.

Municipality hopeful

In an email, CBRM said it is disappointed that workers rejected the tentative deal, which contained wage increases, new benefits and no cuts.

The municipality also said it is hopeful the union members will reconsider.

Both sides say they are willing to continue negotiations, but no talks are scheduled.

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