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City says Prince Albert workers unjustified in delaying contract vote

The union representing inside workers in Prince Albert is taking the city to the labour board, after a vote on a new contract was derailed on Friday.

CUPE 882 filed an unfair labour practice complaint seeking a ruling on the city’s conduct during bargaining, according to a press release on Tuesday.

Employees with CUPE 882 were set to vote on a tentative agreement on Friday, after nearly three weeks on the picket line.

According to a spokesperson for CUPE, the city told the negotiating team on Friday it was planning to make significant changes to a number of positions, including moving some clerks into a call centre established at the start of the strike.

The union says the city is required to negotiate changes to the terms of employment with its staff, through a joint job evaluation committee.

In a statement posted to its website on Tuesday, Corporate Services Director Kiley Bear disputes the significance of the move.

“The union characterized the change as ‘sweeping changes’ when in reality the immediate implementation of the call centre will result in no job loss, no wage loss, no change to hours of work and no change to job classifications or job descriptions,” Bear said.

CUPE National representative Mira Lewis said the most troubling aspect of the situation was the lack of transparency about the restructuring.

“CUPE 882 was blindsided by this decision,” said Lewis. She says the city did not disclose any information about the changes during the bargaining process, and it left many unanswered questions.

Bear says the city is open to sharing more information, but since they believe the conditions of employment won’t change for the clerks being moved to the call centre, there’s no reason to delay a vote on the tentative agreement.

“We need a definitive response about the outstanding tentative agreement and I would expect the union would honor the right of their members to cast their vote.”

CUPE says the creation of the call centre would effect at least four clerk-steno employees and at least five employees classified as secretary II.

“To find out the employer was going to notify employees about restructuring as we walked into the building is concerning,” said CUPE local vice-president Cara Stelmaschuk.

“Nine staff might seem like a small number of people, but it is almost 15 per cent of our city hall staff. Given the current climate, any sudden changes to staffing will have a negative impact on the entire workforce,” she said.

In addition to the unfair labour practice complaint, the union is also requesting the city provide more information about the proposed change by noon on Thursday. The union wants a list of all employees impacted and a more in-depth description of how their jobs will change.

Lewis says CUPE insists these changes must be discussed at the bargaining table.

“We are asking the employer to provide this information immediately and to return to the bargaining table, with the assistance of the special mediator, Kristin Anderson, to negotiate the newly identified proposals until the parties reach an agreement.” Top Stories


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