Halifax Water workers on verge of second strike in three years

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Three years after its last strike, following 12 days of bargaining, the 230 workers at Halifax Water have voted in favour of a strike mandate.

CUPE told Environmental Science & Engineering Magazine that the members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 227 have been assigned a Provincial Conciliator and will be meeting on January 7 and 14 with the conciliator and the utility.

CUPE National Representative Karen MacKenzie says there were 13 concessions on the table in October at the start of bargaining, most of which she believes will negatively affect work-life balance for the utility workers.

“We asked the employer at the outset to remove anything that wasn’t going to facilitate a deal,” MacKenzie said in a statement to media. “They refused to remove the concessions, and we can’t bargain with nine concessions still on the table,” she added.

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Bargaining broke off on October 30.

Local CUPE 227 President Dave Dort, added: “We are disappointed, considering the previous labour disruption three years ago, that the employer came to the table with an extensive list of concessions. It’s disrespectful to the employees and contrary to what they led us to believe going into bargaining.”

The 230 employees provide clean drinking water and treat wastewater and stormwater for the citizens of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The last time the unionized workers experienced a labour disruption was in 2015, in an effort to protect pensions. One of the main issues was indexed pensions, which allows invested earnings to grow over time, to keep up with cost of living expenses and inflation. That labour disruption lasted 53 days. Halifax Water remained operating with about 100 non-unionized supervisory and management staff.

The 2015 deal gave workers annual wage increases of 1.5% each in the first and second years, 2.25% in the third year, 1.5% in the fourth year and 2.25% in the final year of the contract. The contract was retroactive to November of 2013.

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