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Prince Albert's HR manager says city workers' strike is 'cost saving'


Inside workers at the City of Prince Albert initiated strike action on Monday, with the city saying managers are stepping in to keep the facilities running.

“At this point, we have no restrictions on our ability to deliver services at all,” HR Manager Kevin Yates told CTV News.

Yates said managers are currently running Alfred Jenkins Field House, City Hall and Frank Dunn Pool, and additional lifeguards have been hired to keep the pool operating.

On Sunday, the union representing inside workers in the municipality said their last offer was rejected and the city refuses to come back to the table.

“CUPE 882’s bargaining committee is ready and willing to sit down at the table and do the work needed to reach a deal,” spokesperson Mira Lewis said in a news release.

Lewis says employees of the province’s third-largest city were willing to reduce duty pay and proposed vacation entitlements to offset the cost of the wage increases they’re asking for.

Yates says the union’s offer represented an over 15 per cent increase in staffing cost, and the city had a firm mandate of 11.5 per cent.

“We do not want a strike. Let’s be very clear,” said Yates. “But as far as operationally, we’re able to manage things and the actual [strike ] impact to the city is a cost saving.”

On Monday morning, CUPE’s regional representative for Saskatchewan said the strike is the first by CUPE members in Saskatchewan in 12 years.

“City of Prince Albert inside workers are asking for a fair deal, but the mayor and council would rather pad their pockets than bargain,” CUPE regional vice-president Kent Peterson tweeted on Monday.

Speaking to CTV News on the picket line, CUPE 882 vice president Cara Stelmaschuk said the union is hoping "to pressure the city to come back to the table."

"Nothing has to be a done deal. We're very willing to talk still," Stelmaschuk said.

Yates says the city just doesn’t have the room to maneuver.

“We have no more to give. Our mandate is we have no more to give. We don't set the mandate. City Council is not prepared to make the taxpayers of the city of Prince Albert pay more,” he said.

Employees with CUPE 882 have been without a contract since December 2021. In June, the union voted in favour of job action up to and including a full withdrawal of services. Prior to the strike, workers were under a work-to-rule order since Aug. 10.

--With files from Stacey Hein Top Stories

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