They’re not letting up: Strathcona Gardens employees in Campbell River are walking the picket line for the fourth time today.
With this in mind, the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) says Monday (Nov. 22) cancellations abound at the Dogwood St. facility.
The weight/fitness room and all pools are closed, and all SRD programming and lessons are cancelled. However, the arenas will remain open for all booked ice users.
This latest walkout comes following strikes on Nov. 1, 10 and 12, after a four-year contract proposal with wage hikes of two to two and a quarter per cent per year was voted down by United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1-1937 members.
According to the union’s business agent Shelley Siemens, significant concerns over the rising cost of living, rental housing, the price of groceries, and fuel costs played a factor.
On Nov. 15, she says the union wrote again to the SRD, inviting them to participate in “meaningful collective bargaining.”
“Again, the Strathcona Regional District negotiator has responded back with the same response, that they feel the below the cost of living increases they offered were reasonable,” explains Siemens.
She says the employer is paying “substantially higher” wages for similar jobs in a different facility, and that the finances of the SRD “were healthy enough for management staff to award themselves with wage increases far above the cost of living.”
Siemens says USW members will continue to take job action “until which time the Strathcona Regional District comes back to the table to negotiate a contract that is fair and equitable for their employees.”
“Our members do not want to be inconveniencing the public, they want to continue to serve the public even though they are on the front lines of the pandemic like most public-facing servants,” she adds.
Our newsroom reached out to the SRD for comment, and in an update today, it says its board is committed to resolving the labour dispute.
“After seven months of bargaining, both committees left the table in July 2021, with a tentative deal to present to their respective parties,” it says. “This four-year tentative agreement included general wage increases which are on par with agreements with local governments across Vancouver Island. The Strathcona Regional Board approved the tentative deal, but the USW bargaining committee failed to ratify the agreement with their members.”
The SRD continues, “The Regional District has requested the USW return to the table via binding arbitration conducted by a mutually agreed-upon arbitrator. The USW has yet to respond to the requests to return to the table, made on Oct. 25, Nov. 1 and Nov. 17.”