Town of Kensington, CUPE back at negotiating table

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Nancy MacPhee
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Two parties unable to reach agreement after daylong talks Monday

Unionized members of the Town of Kensington’s workforce and their supporters walk a picket line outside town hall on Monday.  Linda Jones, left, does not work for the town but is a member of CUPE, she took time out of her day to support town employees, like Vicki Campbell, right. Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer

KENSINGTON — Negotiations in the almost weeklong lockout of CUPE workers in the Town of Kensington are ongoing, with the two parties still unable to reach an agreement, said the town’s manager.

Those were Geoff Baker's words minutes prior to Monday night’s regular monthly meeting of Kensington town council.

“We have been negotiating all day,” said Baker, adding that the negotiating committee consisting of himself, the town’s deputy administrator, Wendy MacKinnon, and Police Chief Lewie Sutherland met with CUPE national representative Stacy Delaney, Brenda MacIsaac, Andrew Griffin and CUPE’s regional director.

“I am not sure, at this point, if we are any closer. We exchanged a number of proposals. Have we come closer in the way of numbers? We have.”

Baker said the town initially started by offering the union a six per cent wage increase over three years, bumping that up to the latest offer, which was refused last week, of 7.5 per cent over three years. 
The union wants a nine per cent wage increase over three years.

Baker couldn’t divulge details of Monday’s talks with the union, but added that the three outstanding issues remain on-call pay for part-time police officers, wages and the contract length.

The issue was one that council was discussing behind closed doors following Monday’s regular council meeting.

Baker, again, wouldn’t disclose details of what was to be discussed but did say that both sides would meet again Tuesday morning.

“Discussions are ongoing and we certainly hope to bring it to resolution”

Six employees, members of CUPE Local 4893, have been on the picket line, locked out by the town from their jobs for close to a week.

The workers — three communications technicians, a public works employee and a janitor — along with supporters from various other unions and CUPE locals from across the province and the Maritimes have been picketing town hall since the lockout was imposed at 8 a.m. last Wednesday.

The unionized employees have been without a contract since April of this year. After five days of bargaining in May, the parties were unable to reach an agreement and the union filed for conciliation.

Three more days of conciliation took place in September and October. On Oct. 28, provincial Justice Minister Janice Sherry referred the matter to a board of arbitration.

The town offered the union an offer in late November, which included a 7.5 per cent wage increase over three years — an offer the union rejected late last Monday night.

The following day, Baker informed the union that as of Wednesday morning it would be looking out the six employees, something that Delaney said at the time “blindsided” its members.

Since, the union has placed ads in Island newspapers and commercial radio calling the move by the town’s move “cold hearted” and urging Islanders to call Kensington Mayor Gordon Coffin on the issue. Print ads listed phone numbers council members.

“I can tell you, at this point in time, I have not been informed, anyway, and I have spoke to just about every councillor, that most councillors didn’t get any phone calls,” said Baker, who is not a unionized employee.

He admitted that crossing the picket line, which is outside the building that houses the town’s offices, including his and that of the mayor, and the police department, has been difficult.

“We are such a small group and I consider each and everyone of them a friend,” he added. “It is difficult but, personally, what I have received publicly at this point in time is support.”
Coffin, at Monday night’s meeting, said he received four calls to date, all, he added, that ended with the caller saying they supported the town’s move.

But there was one person who showed up at the meeting who obviously wasn’t in support of the move by the town.

Prior to the meeting’s start, Rev. Al Meloche, the volunteer Chaplin with the town’s police department, refused to shake Coffin’s hand when greeted at the door, saying he was disappointed in council and its actions against the unionized employees.

Coffin, for several minutes, discussed the matter with Meloche prior to the meeting and invited him to sit in on the meeting and, before getting down to official business, voice his concerns.

He said coming from a union city where his father was involved in many strikes, he has an appreciation of how it impacts the families of those who are on strike or locked out and left on the picket.

Driving by the picket line Monday, he stopped to chat with union members, something that prompted him to attend the council meeting.

“What struck me most in all of this was lockout. To be locked out of your own position, from your own work establishment, I was having a real hard time with that. I guess I really didn’t understand that,” said Meloche, who admitted that before the meeting started he was too upset to shake Coffin’s hand. “I brought my upset in here but it was also because of my lack of information.”

He did say that he would be back on the picket line Tuesday with “his co-workers.”

“I really feel that this has to be resolved.”

 

Organizations: Canadian Union of Public Employees

Geographic location: Kensington

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Recent comments

  • spud
    December 10, 2013 - 09:32

    Union members don't be so greedy 7.5 % over three years is a hell of a lot more than most people on pei are getting

  • Jan Roach
    December 10, 2013 - 07:45

    Shame, shame on the city of Kensington. Tis the season to lock out workers and to NOT negotiate in good faith. Ba Humbug to the Mayor & council! I hope you receive coal in your stockings!

  • don
    December 09, 2013 - 23:48

    cupe members keep up the fight k'town will fold i may not agree with all unions but for the town to lock you out i have to go against the town. i can not see why they are complaining 9% over three years. but maybe in the council would move into the 21st century and allow other business in that may help. but i have called to see about opening a place and was told NO . so how can you built bigger when they close the doors?