The Union of Northern Workers (UNW) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) North have said no to arbitration with the city to end the strike which has now entered its third week.
In a press release issued Friday morning, UNW president Gayla Thunstrom and PSAC North regional executive vice-president Lorraine Rousseau stated that both unions have officially declined the request to have a third-party decide on the best deal.
“After giving the bargaining team time to respond to the city and discuss with the Local 345 membership today, the UNW/PSAC can confirm that the bargaining team has declined the city’s request,” the news release stated. “The timing of the city’s (offer) tells us that the efforts of our membership are not going unnoticed. The pickets are working, and our members are united behind their bargaining team.”
Both Thunstrom and Rousseau also stated that they were “disappointed that the request was made public before the bargaining team had a chance to meet with members, assess, and respond.”
The city made the offer to go to binding arbitration on Thursday afternoon. Had it been accepted by the unions, striking workers would have been in position to return to work at city-run facilities and programs would have resumed operation.
Both Thunstrom and Rousseau stated that working things out at the bargaining table is their preferred method.
“The union is of the strong position that the best outcome is for the parties to negotiate a settlement at the bargaining table and not hand over their responsibilities – for which they have been elected or appointed – to a binding third party,” they stated. “Additionally, getting a result from an arbitration could take several weeks. At this point, we still believe that the best way to come to a deal is through negotiation.”
The unions stated on Wednesday that their most recent offer was a 3.75 per cent increase for each 2022 and 2023, down from their previous demand of five per cent and three per cent, respectively. The city responded that it would not “entertain our new salary proposal and said once again that they could not meet us on wages,” according to the UNW.
The unions proposal also included signing bonuses for every unionized employee, depending on their status with the city: $1,000 for permanent full-time, term and casual full-time employees; $500 for each permanent part-time and seasonal employee and; $250 for each casual part-time employee.
Prior to making the arbitration offer on Thursday, the city stated that it was the last party to make an offer and “has yet to receive a counter-offer from the union since talks broke down Feb. 13, 2023, and the union walked away.”
The city also claimed back on Feb. 10 that the original demands made by the union would cost more than $1.6 million and result in a 4.79 per cent property tax increase to pay for it.