Mount Pearl workers burn copies of city's 'final' proposal as strike enters 8th week

·3 min read
Mount Pearl city workers and managers faced off on Friday morning as the strike entered its eighth week. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Mount Pearl city workers and managers faced off on Friday morning as the strike entered its eighth week. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Curtis Hicks/CBC
Curtis Hicks/CBC

Striking Mount Pearl workers burned copies of the city's latest contract proposal on the picket line Friday morning as their walkout entered its eighth week.

Workers and city managers faced each other in front of city hall, with Ken Turner, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2099, accusing the City of Mount Pearl acting in bad faith.

"You want to punish these people for being on strike," he said. "We will be here a long time."

In a statement Thursday evening, the city said both parties have been negotiating this week and spent days working through "language updates to operations and service delivery."

"The union's bargaining team has rejected the city's offer and advised they will not take the offer to their membership for a vote," said the city.

According to the statement, the City of Mount Pearl's "final" offer included 18 sick days for new and existing employees, the introduction of two personal leave days, a nine per cent wage increase over four years and a $1,000 signing bonus for every employee.

The city and the union have been in negotiations since March, and more than 200 city workers have been on strike since July 7, as workers rejected a two-tier system of benefits for existing versus new hires, and bargained for a higher wage increase, among other items.

Latest proposal attempts to find 'balance,' says city

During a city council meeting on Thursday evening broadcast on YouTube, Deputy Mayor Nicole Kieley said the city was attempting to find "balance."

"What we heard, certainly from the members and from those throughout the negotiation process, was that two-tiered was not an option."

Other members of council expressed similar sentiments and argued the latest offer is a fair compromise between city and worker objectives.

Turner blasted the city council for publicizing the details of the agreement, accusing members of spreading "half-truths" to residents.

"Council tried to paint a picture last night and turn the public against these people," Turner said, gesturing at the workers. "That's how bargaining has been done since Day 1."

Curtis Hicks/CBC
Curtis Hicks/CBC

Mount Pearl Mayor Dave Aker rejected the union's claim that the city is bargaining in bad faith.

"We're putting this out here tonight to inform our residents that what we've been doing for the last two weeks in addition to the previous six months and this is where we've arrived."

Council accuses workers of safety violations

Kieley said the city has also submitted a "return to work agreement" to ensure a "culture of health and safety" after the strike.

Coun. Mark Rice said the city has encountered many safety issues due to the strike, and accused some employees of putting themselves in harm's way.

"We cannot let that go. You've got to be liable for your actions. You are employees of the City of Mount Pearl. We respect that. But we also respect our health and safety," he said.

On Friday morning, Turner rejected the return to work agreement as an attempt to "discipline" workers for going on strike.

"We have essentially gone from a strike to a lockout," he said.

Turner said the strike has been well run, and there have been no injuries, theft or damage to property.

On Friday afternoon, Aker said the city's human resources department sent letters to some workers about safety violations during the strike.

"The intention here is only about accountability. It's not about firing people and getting rid of people," he said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador