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The union, with about 140 members, voted to strike on Sept. 8 and have been off the job since.
“We’ve been clear that the city needs to improve its wage offer and they have yet to do so,” said Brittany Doyle, CUPE Local 486 president.
The city published its offer online on Sept. 15, saying it was “fair, responsible and fully compliant with Council’s wage escalation policy.”
In the first year under the contract, it offered zero per cent but a one-time $5,000 signing bonus, which equals a 5.38-per cent increase or $710,000.
The wage escalation policy does say the increase could be at 3.04 per cent in 2022, which is what CUPE national representative Mike Davidson said is what the union looks to be around for year one, but declined to say specifically what the counter offer was.
“Why is there a zero-per cent in 2022 when the wage escalation number, the three-year rolling average, is 3.04 per cent,” he said. “That is the reason why that offer was rejected.”
The union disputes the city’s claim it didn’t make a counter offer.
Blockades and delays
The city has also reported there were blockades of garbage trucks and it suspended its recycling and compost programs amid the strike.
On Sept . 13, police were called to a location on Fairville Boulevard.
“Officers responded to a report of picketers blocking garbage trucks on Fairville Boulevard,” said Saint John Police spokesperson, Staff Sgt. Sean Rocca.
“Officers attended and directed the trucks and picketers off the roadway without incident.”
Police said no charges were laid in the calls they responded to.
The city has since blocked off two lanes of Fairville Boulevard to avoid CUPE Local 486 members who are striking at various depot locations in the city.
It reported delays to city transit on Thursday.
The city provided Global News with a photo of CUPE Local 486 members standing next to garbage and sanitation trucks.
“The City is increasingly concerned about the safety of the public and picketers on Fairville Blvd and at the Crane Mountain Landfill,” said city spokesperson Lisa Caissie.
“The actions of CUPE Local 486 in having their members block sanitation trucks along a four-lane roadway and the roadway into the landfill is both dangers and illegal.”
It also said it is exploring all its options to ensure “CUPE Local 486 comply with their legal obligations.”
The city said it has made several attempts to return to the bargaining table in the past few weeks.
“The City offered to meet with CUPE Local 486 on multiple occasions: the weekend prior to the strike and again this Friday, September 22,” Caissie said in an email statement. “CUPE Local 486 declined the first offer and we have not heard back on the request for this Friday.”
Union leadership said it won’t return to the negotiating table until the city approves it’s wage offer.
The city did implement a contingency plan for the 911 dispatch centre in Saint John, but the union says all 911 calls are being diverted to Fredericton. It is only redirected back when fire or police need to be dispatched to specific location.
Doyle said the centre in the city handles about 37 emergency departments in the greater Saint John region.
“It is a very difficult job to be a dispatcher,” Davidson added. “There is approximately six months of intense training you have before anybody is even allowed to dispatch.”
The city said “business continuity plans are in place and are functioning as planned.”
“We are taking great efforts to minimize the strike-related disruptions to the community,” said Caissie.
Caissie said in order to get back to the bargaining table there must be a “willingness for CUPE Local 486 to meet and come to the table with an open mind to negotiate a settlement that is both fair to its members and responsible to the taxpayers of Saint John.”
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