'How is that equal?': union rep says female-dominated local offered less than male counterparts

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Negotiations between the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in Sydney and its inside workers have stalled. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
Negotiations between the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in Sydney and its inside workers have stalled. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Contract negotiations between the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the union representing some municipal workers remain at a standstill, and one union representative claims it's because of gender discrimination.

CUPE National Representative Tammy Martin said the municipality's so-called "inside" workers — Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 933 — are not getting a fair shake.

"The male dominated local got offered more and better benefits than the female dominated local, you know, which is disgraceful. And so how is that fair? How is that equal?" Martin said.

She says inside workers are being offered a nine per cent wage increase over a multi-year contract.

Local 933's 138 members are mainly female office employees in the citizen service centre, and in some departments like public works, transit and facilities, the 911 and 311 operation centres, and police records.

Martin notes that in December 2021, the mostly male Local 759  — known as "outside" workers — was offered a 9.5 per cent wage increase over four years and a shift differential of $1.50 per hour for hours worked during certain parts of the day.

"Neither one of those were offered to 933," she said.

CBC
CBC

Talks between the union and the municipality broke down at the end of July and union members voted in favour of pressure tactics up to and including strike action.

The parties have not been back to the table since.

Mayor issues statement

"Like CBRM's accepted offer to outside workers in December, the inside workers union is being treated equally fair," CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall said in a statement Wednesday.

Martin disagrees.

"That press release does not paint a truthful picture of where we are in bargaining with the CBRM," Martin said.

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC

McDougall told CBC News it is not a gender issue.

"None of this has anything to do with gender. This has to do with making sure that everybody across the board in the CBRM employees are treated equally," she said.

"We would never offer anything lower than we would offer outside workers. We would never want to treat any employee differently than one another," she said.

"This is the same wage increase as the 9.5 per cent. To go in and offer lower… would have been incredibly disrespectful because that would have shown that we were being unfair," she said.

Outstanding issues

In addition to wage parity, unresolved issues in the negotiation process include shift differentials and bereavement leave.

McDougall said staff and council will be doing everything they can to avoid a strike and are looking at options to keep services running.

"Those are things that are having to be ironed out for sure," McDougall said.

Martin said local 933 just wants to be treated the same as outside workers. "We want a fair deal, and that's the bottom line. We want to be treated equally," she said.

McDougall said she's hopeful the parties will reach an agreement.

Meetings with a conciliation officer have been scheduled for Sept. 9.

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