EDITORIAL: Trivializing doesn’t help

If unionized City of White Rock employees go on strike, it will mark a historic low point in management-worker relations in the 57-year-old city.

But it will also be the result of what is clearly a disconnect between political leaders and the union local, CUPE 402-01.

Union president Mike Guraliuk says the city has failed to address “key issues” for the workers, which include such city hall staff as bylaw enforcement, pay parking and financial-services employees.

These issues include providing clear delineation of working hours for all employees, fair treatment for casual and part-time workers and a determination of long-term disability benefits.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin counters that such issues are too “trivial” to strike about.

The city’s position is that it has offered wage increases consistent with settlements with other CUPE locals, and suggested it will help facilitate a CUPE-administered long-term disability plan.

Furthermore, Baldwin says, while the city isn’t prepared to stave off a strike by passing on increased labour costs to taxpayers, striking also wouldn’t make sense for employees who would have little chance to catch up on earnings lost through a job action.

One can’t minimize Baldwin’s experience managing a city – as he served as White Rock’s city manager for many years prior to seeking political office, few others are likely to have a greater grasp of how White Rock operates.

But, by the same token, it might not be the most politic move, as the city teeters on the edge of a strike, to trivialize the current concerns of workers.

With due respect to Baldwin’s judgment, the issues are apparently important enough to the workers for them to have taken a strike vote in February and served strike notice this week.

It’s sad to contemplate that both sides have drifted so far apart, and one can only wonder why elements that seem ‘key’ to one are ‘trivial’ to the other.

Someone, somewhere, isn’t listening to what is being said.

In the final analysis, it will matter less to taxpayers – on the verge of being inconvenienced – who that is, provided the current deficit in understanding is addressed.

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