No Talks Scheduled in Kitimat Labour Dispute
Kitimat, B.C. – Pickets remain up around some municipal buildings in the District of Kitimat.
They’ve been up since Saturday when Unifor Local 2300 and its 127 members walked off the job due to its ongoing dispute with the District.
The last collective agreement expired December 31, 2014, and the strike has resulted in the closure of two arenas, a swimming pool, and a recreation centre.
According to the union’s business agent Martin McIIwrath, the sides aren’t talking and there’s more than one issue at play.
“There isn’t just one I can tell you that. They’ve been focusing on wages. Wages is certainly a component of it but the other issues are so far and broad,” he says. “There’s harassment issues in the workplace, there’s seniority issues, there’s contracting out issues, training, health and safety.”
In the eyes of the union, McIIwrath calls the current work atmosphere “poisonous.”
“When you take into consideration you have an employer that wants to continue to abuse its employees, I would say we’re far apart because we’re not going to sit here and let those abuses carry on any further.”
Chief Administrative Officer Ron Poole says the District tabled a final offer last week, meeting the union’s wage demands by offering wage increases of 2.5% each year for the next three years, along with “very generous benefits.”
However he also acknowledges there is concern from the employer regarding the wording around the contract.
“We agree things like safety and training, there’s room for improvement, and both sides have recognized that in what we’ve put forward,” Poole says. “As well there’s always a huge concern that management rights are maintained so we need to make sure it’s not misconstrued and takes away those rights from the employer.”
Moving forward, no new talks have been scheduled, and Poole admits he’s frustrated by it.
“We’re asking the public to bear with us during this time. We’re trying our best to keep services running and I think so far we have.”
Meanwhile McIIwrath hopes public support is behind the union.
“For a group of over 100 people to withdraw their services, people have got to take that into consideration. For people to stop themselves from having the ability to put food on their tables, that’s a massive statement.”
This is the first strike at the District of Kitimat since 1997.