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Town of Antigonish electrical workers locked out

Town's failure to negotiate is the real issue, workers say

by Robert Devet

Unifor Canada activists joined the town's locked-out electrical workers this afternoon on the picket line at an electrical sub-station where a contractor was doing repairs. Photo Facebook
Unifor Canada activists joined the town's locked-out electrical workers this afternoon on the picket line at an electrical sub-station where a contractor was doing repairs. Photo Facebook

K'JIPUKTUK (Halifax) - Six employees of an electric utility owned by the Town of Antigonish have been locked out since early this Monday.

The town claims it's about pay-outs of unused sick leave when workers retire, but for the workers it is really about the town's failure to negotiate.

"The workers don't want to to be dictated. It is really about the bargaining process," Andrea McQuillin told the Halifax Media Co-op. McQuillin is the Assistant Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1928.

"Wages never were the issue, but in the old contract there is a clause where you can accumulate up to 180 sick days, depending on when you were hired," said McQuillin. "Now the town wants to reduce that pay-out from 100 percent to 30 percent."

That clause has been part of the electrical workers' contract for the last twenty years or so, she believes.

"We suggested mediation to the town, arbitration, they wouldn't go for that," McQuillin said. "We are standing up for the bargaining process. The workers had no other option."

"The workers don't want these things to be unilaterally decided," said McQuillin. "It was clear that from the town's perspective it was take it or leave it all along."

McQuillin believes that the Town's refusal to bargain in good faith is part of a concerted effort to strip away benefits from its unionized workers.

According to McQuillin the town has a contract with K-Line Construction, a New Brunswick company, to provide replacement workers.

For a brief period picketers left their regular picket at the Antigonish town hall today to picket a Nova Scotia Power sub-station when an outage required K-Line Construction's presence there.

But in front of town hall is where the picketers will spend most of their time, said McQuillin. "Nobody wants to see the customers' power disrupted," she added.

There will be rally at Antigonish town hall this Friday July 25th at 10 AM in support of the locked-out workers.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

 


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