CORNER BROOK The City of Corner Brook is training some of its management staff in the operation of heavy equipment.
And the union representing the employees who normally do the work is questioning the reason and motive for it.
Donna Ryan is the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) national representative for western Newfoundland. CUPE represents about 70 employees in Local 706 at the city.
Those workers are responsible for everything from snowclearing and water and sewer work to street cleaning and maintenance of the city’s sports fields.
Local 706’s current contract with the city is set to expire on Jan.1, 2013.
“All I can assume is that we are going into negotiations with the city and they are preparing for either a strike or a lockout,” said Ryan. “Which makes me feel that they’re not going into negotiations with a fair mind.”
Ryan said the union is not approaching the pending negotiations thinking ‘oh we’re going out on strike.’
Rather, she said “we’re going into negotiations hoping we can get a fair collective agreement.”
The training of managers to do union work was also an issue in contract negotiations with the city’s firefighters earlier this year.
When asked if the training was tied to the upcoming negotiations with CUPE, Mayor Neville Greeley said “we routinely send managers for training on our heavy equipment and we’ll continue to do that.”
Meanwhile, Ryan said the union is also concerned about the safety issue of the plows when they are out on the road with inexperienced people at the wheel and she questioned the timing of the training.
“You can’t be teaching a person right now how to plow a road when there’s no snow down,” she said.
“So what training are they actually getting and what is the City of Corner Brook spending its money on.”
Money the union representative said could go to a monetary proposal for workers.
In terms of contract negotiations, Ryan said workers will be looking for respect, to maintain their present collective agreement and for a monetary package.
“No different than any other worker with any other company. Whether you’re unionized or not when a certain point comes, people are looking for an increase.”