As Monday dawns, Prince Albert’s municipal workers are preparing to halt their usual tasks. Their decision arrives in the wake of a rejected proposal from the Canadian Union of Public Employees 882 (CUPE 882), who profess that the city remains steadfast in its refusal to negotiate.
The bargaining committee of CUPE 882 is prepared to negotiate and work diligently with the goal of reaching an agreement prior to the impending strike deadline, according to Mira Lewis, a spokesperson for CUPE 882.
She further notes that the employees of this third largest city within the province have shown their commitment to compromise. Concessions in their proposed reductions to duty pay and vacation entitlements are intended to counterbalance the required wage increases.
Despite the City’s release of limited cost-based information on a recent Friday, Lewis reported that the union proceeded to decrease the financial implications of their proposal. She added that since December 2021, members of CUPE 882 remain without a contract. By June, they voted to endorse action that could extend to a complete withdrawal of services, with a work-to-rule order in effect since August 10th.
In spite of an 11% increase over four years on offer from the city, the union has rejected it, insisting on a rise of 12% over the same period. Kevin Yates, Human Resource Manager for the city, stated in an August interview with CTV News that they were presenting the most attractive offer across the Saskatchewan cities. According to him, it straddles an equilibrium between the interests of Prince Albert taxpayers and the needs of the city’s employees.
On the other hand, CUPE found the city’s claim to be questionable, reflecting on recent contracts drawn up between workers in Wakaw, Biggar, Watrous, and Kindersley. CUPE highlighted a wage hike of 21% over five years, negotiated by Wakaw workers in 2021.
Meanwhile, wages in Prince Albert have been at a standstill, with numerous union members just about earning the minimum wage, according to CUPE 882 Vice-President Cara Stelmaschuk. She sees the issues plaguing the city – recruitment and retention – as being addressed only through improvements in wages and working conditions.
If the workers follow through with the strike, significant services such as those at City Hall, the EA Rawlinson Centre, Art Hauser Centre, Frank Dunn Pool, Alfred Jenkins Field House, and the Arts Centre could be affected.
On social media platforms like Twitter, the regional vice-president for Saskatchewan, Kent Peterson, expressed disbelief at the city’s lack of cooperation. He criticized the hypocrisy and greed of Mayor Greg Dionne and the Prince Albert city council, admonishing their self-centered attention to pay increase rather than showing respect and understanding towards the workers. Peterson vows to stand alongside them on the picket line as the strike begins.