There are no picket lines up yet at the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s garbage disposal sites or at Cowichan Lake Recreation.
The CVRD and the United Steelworkers are still trying to line up a meeting in front of the Labour Relations Board to iron out aspects of their ongoing labour dispute.
The regional district wants to discover if any of the work done by the 50 employees could be called an essential service.
“We’re just in the process of dealing with Essential Services,” said CVRD CEO Brian Carruthers Wednesday. “We need to sort through that discussion and negotiate what levels of essential service we can maintain during whatever work stoppage the USW might undertake. It’s a process we have to go through and it does take some time. We want to make sure the interests of the CVRD are protected as essential
The idea that some of the work might be called essential services is the sticking point right now.
“What happens when we both disagree about what is essential, then the union and the management go to the Labour Relations Board, and the Board will mediate it and decide for us if we can’t come to terms,” Steelworkers spokesperson Chris Cinkant said.
“Right now, because we’re trying to get an appointment to get this done at the LRB, we can’t do the 72-hour strike notice. Once we get this essential service thing done, then we can hit the 72-hour notice again. But, while that dispute is at the LRB, we cannot strike.”
Cinkant said he was trying to get an appointment set up for either the Monday or the Tuesday of next week.
“I’m hoping it’s as soon as possible because I want to get things going,” he said.
The employees are part of the USW Local 1-1937, and took their strike vote on May 8, when talks failed after prolonged negotiations.
CVRD Chief Administrative Officer Brian Carruthers said 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.
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,” he 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.