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Halifax Water contract talks break down

CUPE workers could be off the job in May

by Robert Devet

Almost 340 Halifax Water employees, members of CUPE, could be off the job sometime in May. A cost of living increase and the changes to their pension plan are the contentious issues. Photo Robert Devet. He should clean his sink.
Almost 340 Halifax Water employees, members of CUPE, could be off the job sometime in May. A cost of living increase and the changes to their pension plan are the contentious issues. Photo Robert Devet. He should clean his sink.

KJIPUKTUK, (HALIFAX) - Contract talks between Halifax Water and CUPE have broken off, and a conciliator will file a report with the provincial Department of Labour probably this Friday, says Dave Dort, President of CUPE Local 227.

That would put well over 330 workers, members of CUPE Locals 227 and 1431 in a legal strike or lockout position by the week of May 11th.

Wages and the pension plan are the main issues, Dort explains. Halifax Water is unwilling to sign off on a full cost of living increase

And the employer wants drastic changes to the pension plan currently in place.

CUPE hired an Ontario actuarial company to crunch the numbers and then worked with its own CUPE experts from Ottawa.

That resulted in a counter-proposal that CUPE believes addressed the employer's concerns about the pension's long time viability while limiting the increased burden to the workers relative to the employer's proposal.

“We believe our plan is defensible, it's a cost saver to the employer, and to the public, and we can show that,” says Dort.

“We felt we were very close to a deal. So we were surprised and very disappointed when Halifax Water pulled the plug on it and asked the conciliator to file the report (with the Minister of Labour),” he says.

“I can tell you wholeheartedly and in all honesty that we don't want it to come to this,” says Dort. “We have told the employer we are willing to sit down and bargain and hash this out.”

Halifax Water spokesperson James Campbell earlier this month told the CBC that the utility believes that its final offer is a reasonable one.

"We put forward what we feel is a fair wage and pension offer," Campbell said at that time.

Campbell also told the CBC that a contingency plan is in place if it were to come to a strike or lockout.

Dort is not entirely reassured. The two CUPE locals have started preparing for a work interruption, scheduling pickets, planning for picket signs, he says.

“We provide very skilled, certified and well-trained personnel. We are qualified to provide the water service, the wast water service and the storm water service.”

“As a citizen I would be concerned,” Dort says.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter  @DevetRobert

 


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