Cowichan Valley Regional District staff may walk off job by next week

Cowichan Valley Regional District staff in solid waste management, utilities and Cowichan Lake Recreation issued a 72-hour strike notice Friday to the CVRD, after voting 97 per cent in favour of the job action.

Workers remained on the job this week pending a decision by the Labour Relations Board about what duties constitute essential services. The employees, part of the USW Local 1-1937, took their strike vote on May 8. "Contract talks failed after prolonged negotiations," said a union press release.

The CVRD’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Carruthers said there are 50 employees involved.

Potential strike action could affect Cowichan Lake Recreation, Meade Creek, Peerless Road and Bings Creek transfer stations, curbside recycling and garbage collection

and water and sewer utilities, he said.

Carruthers said the CVRD will work with the Labour Relations Board to ensure that essential services continue.

"We’ll respond accordingly with whatever strike action is taken by the union," Carruthers said.

Contentious issues according to the union include no cost seniority language changes, benefits for casual workers who have the qualifying hours, an equitable wage increase for the first year of the contract and premiums for certification tickets compulsory for job postings. Carruthers described the outstanding issues as related to wages and benefits.

"It is our sincere hope that strike action can be avoided, but the ball is clearly in the CVRD’s court," the union said.

Carruthers said there are no further talks planned at this point between the union and the CVRD.

Now, the Labour Relations Board will contact both parties and hear their arguments over which tasks are essential services. Once the LRB rules, the union must reapply their 72-hour strike notice. After that they can look at walking off the job.

Chris Cinkant of the USW said the earliest job action would take place would be early next week, but didn’t expect things to move that quickly.

"We’ll endeavour to keep the public notified of any labour disruptions that may affect service to the public," Carruthers said.