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Halifax Water security more combative as management challenges mount

by Robert Devet

Standoffs on the picket line between  Halifax Water security staff and workers, such as this one at the Halifax Plant, are unfortunately becoming more common, says the president of CUPE local 227. Photo contributed
Standoffs on the picket line between Halifax Water security staff and workers, such as this one at the Halifax Plant, are unfortunately becoming more common, says the president of CUPE local 227. Photo contributed
A CUPE advertising campaign has focused on top-heavy Halifax Water management structures and other inefficiencies.
A CUPE advertising campaign has focused on top-heavy Halifax Water management structures and other inefficiencies.

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) -  It's been a bit over a week since Halifax Water workers, members of the Canadan Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Locals 227 and 1431, started walking the picket lines.

The union members are  on strike to defend their pension plan and wages.

Dave Dort, president of CUPE Local 227, observes a couple of changes in the way Halifax Water is behaving.

For one thing, security guards, working for AFIMAC Canada, an Ontario security company specializing in strikes, are becoming noticeably more aggressive on the picket line, Dort tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

“Yesterday down at the Halifax Plant, one of their folks pushed his way through the line and then claimed that there was a physical assault by one of our members,” Dort says.

And there is more of that kind of thing going on, he adds.

“Nothing on the picket line warrants that kind of display,” he says. “And we hope Halifax Water will reel these people in a bit, because it is not required.”

AFIMAC Canada has a history of intimidation.

In 2013 strikers at the Labatt's Brewery in St. John's talked to the press about it.

"They're following our members around the city. Trying to provoke argument, continuously. Trying to goad our members into violating the court injunction," a worker told a Rabble.ca correspondent.

"They spend all their time, two people in a van ... Consistently in their faces, filming them. The police come and talk to workers, they'll try to get the names of the workers and even the police officers. But it's all from the perspective of intimidation. They won't use that video for anything."

Meanwhile, Halifax Water management is beginning to show signs of strain, says Dort.

“I have been talking to some of the supervisors that I know. They are burnt out, they're exhausted,” he says.

“I feel bad for those folks, some of them are my friends. One guy I spoke to said his feet and his legs are killing him, he hasn't slept in a week.”

Sludge in waste water treatment plants in particular can quickly become a problem.

A certain amount of sludge buildup has to be removed each week, and management has not been achieving that, Dort, who works at the Mill Cove waste treatment plant, claims.

“Speaking for my location, I would say that there are probably getting very close to the breaking point,” Dort says.

Support from the public has been great, says Dort.

“It's extraordinary, I am overwhelmed. We have pizza shops bringing us pizzas, restaurants bringing us food, regular people stopping by, shaking our hands, asking us if they need donuts or coffee or tea. It's amazing.”

“(Before the stoppage) we were worried about the public's response, but it's been very positive.”

A CUPE advertising campaign pointing to a top-heavy management at Halifax Water and exorbitant salary for its General Manager possibly has something to do with that.

“Spirits are high, we're willing to be there as long as it takes,” Dort adds.

 

See also: Halifax Water pension battles and the hidden agenda

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter    @DevetRobert

 

 


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