Cornwall CUPE strike votes underway; no movement in talks, union says

City workers with the Canadian Union of Public Employees demonstrate outside city hall Monday, Feb. 12, 2018 to pressure the city to step up the pace of negotiations. Talks between both sides for four union locals have been taking place since the fall of 2017. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Workers with the City of Cornwall are voting this week on whether to strike to back contract demands.

The city’s inside and outside workers, librarians and paramedics were at CUPE meetings earlier this week where strike votes were on the agenda.

“Some locals have started to take strike votes but they’re not all complete. They’re still in process so nothing is officially tallied,” a CUPE national spokeswoman told Cornwall Newswatch Thursday.

A full tally of the strike votes is expected by the “middle of next week.”

As for any negotiations between the City of Cornwall and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), there hasn’t been “sufficient movement for much to change. It’s status quo right now,” the CUPE representative said.

While “nothing has broken down,” the CUPE spokeswoman said both sides haven’t been at the table since December.

City of Cornwall Human Resources Manager Geoff Clarke told CNW that the city’s negotiating team has met with each of the CUPE locals at least once in 2018 as part of the bargaining process. “The city remains committed to the bargaining process with CUPE,” Clarke said in an email to Newswatch.

A strike vote is a normal procedure as part of the collective bargaining process.

Some of the locals have already requested a conciliator at the table, according to the union, but nobody has asked for a “no-board report,” which would trigger a strike, 17 days after the report is endorsed by the provincial government.

“We’re not at that point yet. No one has made that request (for) a no-board on either side,” the CUPE spokeswoman said.

Keith Sandford, national representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, was not immediately available for comment.

The majority of workers have been without a contract since September 2016, while Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge workers haven’t had a contract since March 2016. The contract for Cornwall Public Library workers ended in December 2015.

In a February interview with CNW, Sandford said the pace of negotiations was “extremely slow” but the union would not stand for a zero per cent increase – a city-proposed wage freeze, which has been widely reported in local media.

“The zero’s still on the table so that’s a huge issue for us,” Sandford said last month.

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