The union representing more than 1,200 District of Saanich workers has overwhelmingly voted in favour of holding a strike after reaching an impasse in negotiations.
CUPE Local 2011 said its members voted 94 per cent in favour of strike action in a vote held Tuesday night. It comes as the union bargains with the District of Saanich over wage increases in the face of inflation.
“The District wants the union to again accept a ‘rollover’ agreement that does not address the needs of workers who are struggling with cost-of-living challenges,” CUPE Local 2011 President Ryan Graham said in a statement.
The union says the District’s offer does not keep pace with inflation and is asking for the employer to return to the negotiating table after talks, which have been ongoing since December 2021, broke down last week.
Included in its list of issues it says have been “largely ignored” by Saanich, the union says it’s seeking payment for members who must remain at a job site during lunch breaks, higher in-lieu percentage for casual workers, and an increase to benefits, shift differentials and First Aid allowances.
“The main concerns from our membership have gone largely unanswered by the District thus far. We thought we had made some gains and then in a surprise move the district chose to remove all proposals from the table and instead proposed a three-year rollover contract,” said Graham.
“Our last two contracts were rollover contracts and therefore a third does not address the union’s concerns around cost of living for our members as well as much needed language improvements to ensure hours of work remain similar to what we have in the current collective agreement.”
The District of Saanich said in a statement that essential services would continue even if a strike is held.
“As a next step, the parties are in negotiations to determine essential service levels as required under the BC Labour Code. CUPE is not in a legal position to serve 72-hour strike notice until the essential service levels are finalized and approved by the provincial Minister of Labour,” the District said in a statement.
“We remain open to resuming bargaining when the Union’s bargaining committee wishes to do so.”
The local represents District of Saanich workers who provide services involving water, wastewater, sanitation, roads, parks, planning, rec centres and support for police and fire services.