No deals but no demos; city-union talks enter third month

In this October 2017, file photo, members of CUPE demonstrate outside city hall before a council meeting. Talks between the union and the city are into their third month. The demonstrations quickly faded as the weather got colder, despite a CUPE decree to picket every council meeting until the end of 2017. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

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CORNWALL – Contract negotiations between the City of Cornwall and various union groups are continuing into their third month.

The city’s bargaining team is sitting down today (Tuesday) with members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 5734, representing paramedics with Cornwall-SDG Paramedic Services, according to Human Resources Director Geoff Clarke.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Clarke said they have been through the first round of negotiations with the CUPE and ONA locals and are now working on followup dates.

“We’ve done one and two (rounds) for a couple and we’re looking for number two for the remainder of the groups we weren’t able to get to before the (Christmas) holidays,” Clarke said.

“The process is continuing. I really don’t have much more than that,” he said. “The talks are still ongoing and we don’t have any deals yet to speak of.”

Bargaining is going on with CUPE Local 3251, representing 152 full-time inside workers, CUPE Local 234 representing 85 full-time outside workers, CUPE Local 1792 for 59 full-time employees at Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge and CUPE Local 5734 with the 64 full-time paramedics with the Cornwall-SDG Paramedic Services.

The majority of contracts expired in September 2016, while Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge expired in March 2016 and the Cornwall Public Library workers agreement ended in December 2015.

There are also talks with the Ontario Nurses Association local after its contract expired in March 2016.

Senior city staff have indicated to CNW that the 2018 budget already has provisions in the salaries and benefits for various departments to cover at least some or all of potential collective agreements.

In the case of union groups that are not able to strike – firefighters, Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge workers (ONA) and paramedics – the departments have money set aside based on calculations should the groups go to binding arbitration.

For all the other CUPE locals, city departments have set aside an increase in the neighbourhood of the Consumer Price Index (1.7-2 per cent).

“We have a mandate that’s kind of agreed to by council and we follow that. The budget process…what they’ve given us is part of an operating mandate for collective agreements and that’s what we work for through the process,” Clarke said.

In October, CUPE had planned to demonstrate outside every city council meeting after making its initial appearance in September.

But those demonstrations faded quickly in the midst of bargaining, a possible indicator on how things are progressing between the two sides.

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