White Rock public works department off the job

Striking City of White Rock employees wave to a motorist who honked support on the drive past the picket line, set up Thursday outside the Keil Street works yard. - Tracy Holmes
Striking City of White Rock employees wave to a motorist who honked support on the drive past the picket line, set up Thursday outside the Keil Street works yard.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes

Striking City of White Rock employees in the public works department remain off the job today.

The shutdown affects residential, multifamily and commercial garbage and recycling collection, maintenance of the sewer system, street cleaning, and parks and road maintenance.

Parker StreetCUPE announced the job action shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday. A picket line went up outside the city's Keil Street facility at 6 a.m. Thursday. City manager Dan Bottrill said the job action is manageable, however, non-unionized employees will not be filling the gap in garbage, green waste and recycling collection.

In announcing the move, local 402-01 president Mike Guraliuk said the union wants to send a strong message to White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and city council about returning to the bargaining table.

"This dispute can end if the city gets serious about bargaining," he states in the news release. "The union is willing to go back to the bargaining table, but the city has chosen to dictate rather than negotiate."

Outside the public works yard Thursday, Guraliuk said the employees are prepared to continue with job action "as long as it takes." A full-out strike is being considered for next week if there is no progress in the coming days, he added.

The union initiated rotating strike action last Friday with a picket line and rally outside city hall.

On Monday, an overtime ban went into effect.

Those steps followed 72-hour notice that was issued on April 28, after mediated bargaining did not bring the two sides to an agreement.

And while the union had initially promised to give the city 24-hours' notice of job action, Bottrill said that promise has now been broken.

"We're a little disappointed that the union didn't honor their promise," he said. "We were advised (of Thursday's job action) at 2:35 yesterday afternoon."

Guraliuk said the decision to walk off the job Thursday "was made abruptly." At the same time, he said the union is "not bound" to give the full-day's notice – and, going forward, likely won't.

In response to comments made to Peace Arch News by Baldwin last week about the strike, Guraliuk said that the mayor is "out of touch with the needs of his front-line employees."

"The leadership should not be calling our issues trivial," he said. "If our issues are so trivial, how come we're here?"

Key issues for the union include the need for clear hours of work for all employees, fair treatment for casual and part-time employees and protection for members who become seriously ill.

Guraliuk said all but three of the city's 25 to 30 public works employees on the picket line; those absent are off work due to either illness or injury.



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