Mayor Barry Pages has insulted the village of Masset’s workers, and has edged contract negotiations closer to a strike footing, according to a union negotiator.
Tom McKenna, with the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Burnaby, told the Observer that never in his more than six years of bargaining has he been as shocked and appalled as he was when he heard the mayor’s comments, which were made during a bargaining session on November 8 in Masset.
Mr. McKenna says the mayor told union members that they ought to be glad they have jobs, and that if he hasn’t had a raise, why should they get one?
“This is an insult to any working person,” Mr. McKenna says, “these workers make their living providing valued services to the public. They do not appreciate the mayor’s callous remarks.”
Following those remarks, the union issued a bargaining bulletin, explaining the current impasse and saying that if the mayor does not get serious about bargaining, Masset could be facing its first CUPE municipal strike, although under contract terms that cannot happen for a year.
Mr. McKenna says it is unusual to quote someone directly from a bargaining session, but said he feels the mayor’s comments were “so extreme” that he feels obliged to. “He put us in a really difficult spot,” Mr. McKenna said.
The six village workers are looking for a wage increase of 2.5-percent, which would take effect on January 1. The village has offered 1.75-percent, says Mr. McKenna, which is not enough. The three year union contract does not expire until December 2003, but one of its provisions allowed for wages only to be re-bargained at the two year point.
The workers earn between $16 and $25 per hour and work in the village office and for the public works department.
No further meetings are scheduled and the union has applied to go to binding arbitration, which could get underway early in the new year. It could also be expensive, both for the village and the union, according to Mr. McKenna.
The Observer tried to contact Mayor Pages late Tuesday afternoon, but he was in meetings and not available for comment at press deadline. We hope to publish his reaction and comments here or in the Observer as soon as possible.
This is the second contract village workers have negotiated since being certified in April 2001.
The union does admit that Masset’s population has dropped in the last few years, meaning there is less tax money available, but insists that the mayor is alienating CUPE members by suggesting they do work for less than it’s worth. “Â…does it make sense to go to war with our six municipal workers,” the union asks, adding “how will that help encourage people to move here?” It ends by asking the mayor to pay village workers what they deserve and says ‘let’s settle now and get back to serving the public from both sides of the table.”
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