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Union takes White Rock strike action citywide
Striking City of White Rock employees ramped up job action Monday, withdrawing services and putting up picket lines at all city worksites.
The move is the latest in job action that began May 1 with withdrawal of services at city hall, continued May 5 with an overtime ban and expanded Thursday and Friday when public-works employees walked off the job.
The citywide shutdown will continue “until we get an agreement,” CUPE 402-01 president Mike Guraliuk said Monday.
But city manager Dan Bottrill told Peace Arch News the union has shunned city efforts to get talks back on track.
“We proposed two days this week,” Bottrill said, noting the mediator put the offer out Friday. “The response was the union declined both of our proposed dates. It’s very disappointing.”
Guraliuk disputed the statement.
“That is absolutely false,” he said from outside city hall. “We’ve heard nothing.”
“The city manager, all he has to do is step outside and say, let’s meet.”
Thursday’s rotating job action affected garbage and recycling collection, maintenance of the sewer system, street cleaning and parks and road maintenance, with a picket line outside the city’s Keil Street facility starting at 6 a.m.
Monday, all five city facilities – city hall, the works yard, Centennial Arena, Kent Street Activity Centre and White Rock Community Centre – were affected. Only city hall remained open.
The union issued 72-hour strike notice on April 28, after mediated bargaining did not bring the two sides to an agreement.
Bottrill said last week that while the job action is manageable, non-unionized employees would not fill the gap in garbage, green waste and recycling collection. Monday, he reiterated that as long as staff are striking, garbage and recycling will not be picked up.
Residents and businesses have the option to take their waste to the landfill, he said.
It is not an option that residents who have contacted PAN are impressed with.
“The City of White Rock is not being responsible and leaving the garbage and recycling problem to the homeowners who are paying for the services,” Janet McCracken writes in an email.
A Victoria Avenue resident who wouldn’t give his name predicted few, if any, would go the landfill route, given the added cost.
“Our cans are full, they’re still sitting on the street,” he said.
Bottrill said residents can get the latest information about impacts of the job action on the city’s website (www.whiterockcity.ca).
In addition to city hall remaining open, Bottrill said, bylaw enforcement is taking place.
Guraliuk said the citywide action is hoped to send a strong message to White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and city council about returning to the bargaining table.
Outside the public works yard Thursday, Guraliuk said the employees are prepared to continue with job action “as long as it takes.”
While union officials had initially promised to give 24-hours’ notice of job action, Bottrill said that promise was broken when public-works employees walked off the job Thursday. Notice was given at 2:35 p.m. Wednesday, he said.
“We’re a little disappointed that the union didn’t honour their promise,” he said.
Guraliuk, however, said the union is “not bound” to give a full-day’s notice.
In response to comments made to PAN by Baldwin last week about the impending strike, Guraliuk said the mayor is “out of touch with the needs of his frontline 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 protection for members who become seriously ill and clear hours of work.