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Wellesley’s outside workers give union strike mandate in contract talks

Wellesley’s outside workers have given their union a strike mandate, shoring up their bargaining position during current contract negotiations.

The workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1542, voted unanimously in support of the position.

CUPE Local 1542 president Chris Roth said this week the vote in favour of strike action doesn’t mean a labour disruption will happen, but it is a sign that negotiations are not going well and that members are committed to getting a fair deal. Workers have been without a contract since December 31.

“They’re kind of in a not-great spot (the negotiations). The township came to us with a large number of proposals, and basically, they asked us to rewrite the collective agreement – it’s not very favourable for our members. So, it’s not going great. But also, the vote for a strike mandate is more of a vote for the members to support the negotiating committee to negotiate on their behalf up to and including a strike, but it does not necessarily mean a strike,” said Roth.

“The members of Wellesley’s CUPE division have been committed to excellent work and they have bent over backwards to accommodate the township through COVID, altering shifts, which really weren’t obligated to do. It’s really been kind of hurt by the negotiations at this point. They’re looking for a fair agreement, they are tired and committed and they want to do their best for the township.”

Roth says the last time he was at the negotiating table was a week and a half ago, and now they wait on a conciliator appointed by the government to call them back to the table.

Sticking points remain undisclosed at this point, but Roth said he hopes to see that members are treated as well as they treat the township with their commitment to the job.

“I hope we can come to a fair agreement and that our members are looked after the same way they look after the township, which has always been excellent. So, the same way they look after the township, which has always been of excellent service and commitment. And we’re just looking for a fair shot at negotiations.”

Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak could not comment on the state of negotiations since they are still ongoing.

“I think we have to let them go through the negotiations, I think they’ll be at the table soon and hopefully they’ll get it resolved. I’m not involved directly in the negotiations, so it would be hard for me to comment on that. They’re waiting to see how the negotiations go, that’s one of the issues where we just have to bide our time and hopefully a resolution can be had soon,” said Nowak.

The current negotiations involve only the Wellesley members of CUPE Local 1542, which also represents Woolwich’s outside workers – a new contract is due next year – and those in Waterloo, where the contract is up in 2024.

Members of CUPE 1542 includes workers in the recreation and public works departments who maintain facilities such as ice rinks and parks, as well as clearing snow.

Another CUPE bargaining group, Local 1883, recently voted 90 per cent in favour of strike action in talks with the Region of Waterloo. The unit represents inside workers.

“We are looking for a contract that protects our members and the services that people rely on,” said Noelle Fletcher, president of CUPE 1883, in a statement released last week. “We have seen our services come under attack at a time when people need them more than ever. In the middle of a pandemic, the region decided to close childcare centres, centres that are among the only ones who provide care to children with special needs. We’ve seen layoffs of frontline workers when we should be putting all the resources we can toward keeping people safe and keeping services running during the pandemic.”

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