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Union stages rally, addresses council

Negotiations stalled, the union representing Wellesley’s outside workers is stepping up its campaign for a new contract.

On Tuesday evening, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1542 followed up a car rally that started in front of the township administrative building with a direct pitch to councillors for a resolution to the standoff.

The workers have been without a contract since the end of 2020. They say the township is looking to reverse years of gains through collective bargaining, demanding concessions. Union leaders say they won’t back down, but would prefer to reach a deal without a labour stoppage.

The president of Local 1542, Chris Roth, notes there’s never been a strike or lockout in 47 years of unionized labour at the township. Today, however, the situation is more precarious.

Fred Hahn, CUPE’s Ontario president, said there will be no concessions in addressing the workers and their supporters at the rally.

“We organize municipal workers all across the province. We have hundreds of collective agreements, and we have bargained dozens of them through the pandemic – there have been no concessions,” he said.

“They are messing with the wrong union and the wrong workers – we don’t bargain concessions.”

He said the township can have a settlement or it can have a fight with the union, which is Canada’s largest and boasts a $130-million strike fund.

“None of that’s necessary if this employer just does what’s right and takes concessions off the table, bargain a fair agreement with workers and just get back to work supporting this community,” Hahn added, calling on the township administration to treat  workers with respect.

“In Wellesley Township, just like communities all across the province, members here worked hard during  the pandemic. They worked to keep the community safe – they kept this community going. They deserve respect, and they have it from the folks who live in this community, they just need it from their employer.”

Later that evening, he and the union steward of the 12 outside workers, Shawn Geiger, took that appeal directly to councillors meeting online.

“Our union has a long history in the community – we’ve been negotiating collective agreements for 47 years. For 47 years, we’ve managed to negotiate agreements without a labour disruption. We may not have always gotten what we wanted, but we compromised – there was give and take – we managed to work out a deal. That’s what negotiating entails,” said Geiger, noting there are differences this time.

He also stressed that the workers have a longstanding commitment to the community.

“Our members take a lot of pride in our jobs. We often have people tell us that they like driving our roads, and that they appreciate how quickly we plow snow off roads.

“Those types of compliments mean a lot to us – it shows us that our work makes a difference in people’s lives. After all, we are public service workers, and there is a lot of value in helping to improve the lives of people in the community.”

Councillors asked no questions of the delegates, nor did they address the contract negotiations.

“We’ll certainly be looking at the words that you said, and council will be coming up with some sort of decision, I would imagine, in the near future,” said Mayor Joe Nowak.

The township issues a statement separately Tuesday evening.

“The Township of Wellesley continues negotiations with the Canadian Union of Public Employees 1542 (CUPE 1542) and believes we are on the path to settling. CUPE 1542 has represented municipal workers in Wellesley over the past 45 years and the township would like to maintain a positive working relationship with CUPE 1542.”

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