Possible strike looms for City of Hamilton workers over wages

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Published August 7, 2023 at 10:41 am

Hamilton city hall politics

The City of Hamilton’s inside and outside workers have set a strike deadline of Aug. 21., pointing out that managers and non-union staff saw wage hikes while they are nowhere near an agreement over that same issue.

“We care about the services we deliver for the residents of Hamilton and we’d really rather continue working, but what the City of Hamilton is offering just isn’t good enough,” said Jay Hunter, president of CUPE Local 5167, representing about 3,000 inside and outside municipal workers, in a press release on Aug. 4. “Now we have a deadline for the City to come back with a real offer, otherwise the City leaves us no choice but to take strike action.”

The workers’ union Local 5167 said it is “still very far apart from the Employer” on wages. “Hamilton is one of the most expensive places to live and inflation is still on the rise. And Local 5167 is very clear that we are not willing to go below a wage that’s reflective of the needs of our members,” it wrote on a petition on its website.

If no agreement is reached by Monday, Aug. 21 at 12:01 a.m., there could be a lockout or strike, which would affect a wide range of municipal services such as waste collection, roads, parks and bylaw, the union said. 

The union said the workers deliver many vital services for Hamilton residents and deserve higher wages in the face of the cost of living crisis and the challenges in recruiting and retaining workers when wages are not keeping pace with inflation.

“The residents of Hamilton recognize our work and they know we deserve better than what essentially amounts to a wage cut,” said Hunter. “It’s time we get a better offer from the City, otherwise we’re ready go on strike as of August 21 and we know the community values our work and we hope the Employer will show that they do as well.”

It pointed out that its wage proposal would help recruit and retain staff and “ensure equality between increases for us and non-union staff/managers.”

“To add insult to injury, we’ve come to learn that the City has increased the wages for managers and non-union staff at a much higher rate than what our members are asking for,” said Hunter, who did not provide numbers. “Clearly there’s money available to pay staff. So let’s be clear: If they’re good enough for a pay increase, so are we.”

“The City remains committed to working together with the CUPE 5167 negotiating team at the table to reach a negotiated collective agreement and to avoid a labour disruption,” wrote the City of Hamilton in a statement.

CUPE Local 5167 plans a big rally on Aug. 16 at Hamilton City Hall with the support of other unions.

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