Residents advised to make contingency plans in case Hamilton workers strike

By

Published August 15, 2023 at 4:41 pm

City officials say that if 3,200 inside and outside workers strike next week, essential services — such as transit, fire and paramedics — won’t be affected. But they are encouraging residents to make contingency plans because other services such as childcare and parks and recreation centre programs could be cancelled or reduced. 

“We aim to mitigate service disruptions as much as possible, especially critical ones with health and safety implications,” said Janette Smith, the city manager, during a virtual press conference today (Aug. 15). Smith said negotiators will be bargaining with CUPE Local 5167 through the weekend if necessary. “We do recognize a potential labour disruption will have an impact. Services will be significantly reduced or suspended if negotiations are unsuccessful. … We’re remaining very hopeful that a deal will be reached. … We remain committed to being an employer of choice and getting a deal fair to employees as well as taxpayers.”

Smith said the City will redeploy staff – there are 8,500 citywide to keep essential services going without resorting to contract workers. Areas where contractors already do garbage collection will see their services continue even if there is a strike. 

If no deal is reached and the workers decide to strike on 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 21.,  some City-operated services will either be reduced or suspended. Examples of affected services include: childcare services, parks and recreation centres’ programs, animal services, solid waste and garbage pickup for some residents, bylaw, public health inspections, roads and sidewalks, Ontario Works services, customer service lines, museums and libraries, marriage ceremonies, events on City property and a number of services at city hall.

The public can get a full list of services that could be affected and updates on the situation at hamilton.ca/alert/potential-labour-disruption-notice. City officials said they will also provide updates on social media and newsletters at www.hamilton.ca/subscribe.

“We recognize all services may not be maintained. We will do our best to make it as seamless as possible,” Lora Fontana, executive director of human resources for the City of Hamilton, told journalists during the virtual news conference. “Our goal is to reach agreement without the disruption of services to our city.”

City ‘optimistic’ about reaching a deal with union before strike deadline

When asked how far apart the City and the union are on reaching a deal, Fontana said she can’t provide details on the talks “to preserve the confidentiality of matters on the bargaining table.”

“It’s always financial – that remains an issue outstanding at the table,” she said. “I think we’re going to continue to bargain in good faith and continue to be optimistic that we can have a freely negotiated settlement without the need for a labour disruption.”

Fontana said City negotiators are meeting on Friday with the union and a conciliator and mediator in hopes of reaching an agreement. 

CUPE Local 5167, Hamilton’s largest bargaining unit, began negotiating with the City on Feb. 6.  The union asked the conciliator to file a no-board report, which was issued on Aug. 4, putting it in a legal strike position on Monday, Aug. 21 at 12:01 am.

In a press release on Aug. 4, 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.

“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 in a statement 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.”

Hunter pointed out that the City has increased the wages for managers and non-union staff at a much higher rate than what the union’s members have requested.

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

 

inthehammer's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising