A court hearing to deal with a temporary injunction the City of Saint John obtained last week against striking inside workers has been adjourned after the union filed a "novel" motion to question the police chief about picket activity.
The hearing was to be held in Court of King's Bench Tuesday, but a lawyer representing CUPE Local 486 filed notice of the motion.
Local 486 wants Saint John Police Force Chief Robert Bruce to attend court to be cross-examined and to bring with him all documents in the force's possession related to the case, "including, but not limited to, all video footage, reports and written officer notes."
"The union's position is this information is actually vital to the motion that's before you," Brenda Comeau told Justice Darrell Stephenson, referring to the injunction, which prevents striking inside workers from blocking city vehicles and personnel.
The city obtained the injunction after officials alleged "illegal actions" by CUPE Local 486 pickets, including blocking public roadways, following disruptions to garbage collection.
The temporary court order specifically prohibits the striking inside city workers from picketing on any highways as defined by the Motor Vehicle Act.
It also prohibits pickets from physically blocking city vehicles and vehicles of employees or anyone doing business with the city.
'Handshake agreements' on garbage delays, union alleges
"It seems … you're looking for evidence that there were agreements in place with respect to delaying the vehicles exiting city properties or moving off staging areas on the street," Stephenson said, similar to what national CUPE representative Mike Davidson "told me in his earlier affidavit, correct?"
"Correct," Comeau, the union's lawyer, confirmed.
Outside the courthouse, Davidson told CBC, "The city said there were no agreements with the delays during the picket lines."
But "we had handshake agreements with the city with reasonable delays, clear agreements," he said. "So we're looking for that evidence."
Motion a first in Canada, city lawyer says
The city's lawyer, Jamie Eddy, described the union's motion as "very novel."
"There's no reported case on it in New Brunswick. I'm not aware of any decision in Canada where such a motion was filed, let alone granted," he told the court.
The Court of King's Bench will deal with CUPE Local 486's motion on Oct. 27 at 9:30 a.m. (Roger Cosman/CBC)
The judge adjourned arguments on the motion until Oct. 27, to give the city time to prepare, the first date all parties will be available.
"Any chance this will all be moot by then?" asked Stephenson.
"I would hope so," replied Comeau.
The injunction remains in effect until a separate hearing is held and a decision rendered, Stephenson said.
Counterproposal before city council
Meanwhile, the union hopes city council will approve its counter proposal at Tuesday night's council meeting.
The roughly 140 striking clerical, administrative and support staff, now in week four of the strike over wages, "overwhelmingly" rejected the latest offer from the city during a mass membership vote on Sunday.
The third year of the contract is the main sticking point along with proposed split wages, where members would only receive half of their increase at the start of the year and the other half in July, according to Local 486 president Brittany Doyle.
CUPE Local 486 president Brittany Doyle said the striking inside workers are seeking wages that are 'fair and reasonable. (Roger Cosman/CBC)
The city's wage escalation policy, passed by the previous council in 2019, stipulates increases must not exceed the assessment base growth or consumer price index plus one per cent, whichever is lower.
But during a news conference Tuesday, Doyle noted a section of the policy states "council shall direct staff — not 'may' — shall direct staff to use the three-year rolling average of the assessment base growth in future contract negotiations. So … it shouldn't be an option, but here we are at the table and it's not being presented."
The city did not respond to a request for comment.
The inside city workers went on strike Sept. 12.