Mount Pearl strike, entering its 4th week, is in a stalemate, says city, union

·3 min read
A group of striking city workers demonstrates outside Mount Pearl's public works depot on Clyde Avenue in Mount Pearl earlier this month. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
A group of striking city workers demonstrates outside Mount Pearl's public works depot on Clyde Avenue in Mount Pearl earlier this month. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)

The City of Mount Pearl and the union that represents municipal workers are at an impasse as a strike enters its fourth week.

Mayor Dave Aker said no negotiations have happened this week, and Ken Turner, president of Local 2099 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said it's up to the city to decide when talks happen again.

Local 2099 went on strike July 7, saying it was refusing to accept a two-tier system that would involve what union leadership said were unacceptably low benefits for new hires.

Aker said Thursday the city proposed to reduce sick leave for unionized staff from 21 days to 18, and to 12 for new hires.

"We're not touching their pension plan. We'll continue with the defined benefit pension plan as well as a very good health and dental plan," Aker said.

Mike Moore/CBC
Mike Moore/CBC

Turner said that's a distraction from the real issues, since the city's management is in the same pension plan and already has more paid leave days than unionized workers. He said the city is trying to change fundamental parts of their collective agreement, which expired at the end of June.

"The city has offered nothing to its workers and instead has chosen to walk back or remove benefits that have already been negotiated through past agreements," said Turner.

Aker said the city is being flexible while trying to strike a balance for taxpayers, and he accused the union of wanting to talk only about wages.

"Their arms are folded and they don't want to talk about anything except compensation," Aker said.

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

But Turner said the city is the side that refuses to budge. Wages are the only thing to be discussed because the city has rejected all their proposals, he said, forcing them to withdraw them.

"Until the city is ready to come back and give us a bottom line, what it is they're truly after, instead of just throwing out a red herring for the public to take a look at, we are at an impasse," said Turner.

Turner says the five to six sticking points holding things up are all issues the city has raised.

"If those are not going to move, then we are not in a good place right now," Turner said.

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

Turner said the union has no demands on the table and would accept the same contract that just expired.

"We would carry this on for another several years to the next round of bargaining to a time that would probably be more appropriate than right now," he said.

Aker says some residents aren't happy with the reduction of services happening because of the strike.

"I think they're a little bit peeved about some of the summer activities being cancelled," said Aker.

"I think coming out of COVID, it's very important that our children especially don't be made pawns in all of this, that they can get some recreation, some more socialization and start to feel a bit normal again."

Turner took issue with the mayor's suggestion that children were being used as pawns in the dispute.

"That's absolutely inflammatory language and distracting as well. We've been bargaining since March," Turner said.

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