For two weeks in a row, members of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 1188 and other local CUPE divisions have rallied at Sackville Town Council meetings in opposition to the offer proposed by the town’s collective bargaining negotiating team.
On Monday, March 13, over 50 union supporters held signs in protest in front of Sackville Town Hall.
The union’s concern is with the consideration of seniority when part-time or casual workers apply for permanent positions. CUPE 1188 says the town’s offer erases this consideration of seniority. Its campaign to renegotiate has been called “Seniority Matters.”
Marcos Salib, CUPE national representative, said seniority is a major union concern. “Some may not realize that erasing considerations of seniority opens up the door to a lot of political connections and friends hiring friends,” Salib said.
Salib said the town’s only response to the union’s concern is to stand by their negotiating team and assert that they want to “hire the best candidates out there.” Salib noted that the union has no control over whom the town hires, but that many potential part-time employees are attracted to job postings if they know that they would be accumulating seniority for a later permanent job. Salib said the exclusion of this clause “has absolutely no financial value for the town.”
Salib said other Sackville CUPE divisions were concerned that their employers would try to bring in the same kind of exclusion of seniority to their negotiations.
John Higham, mayor of Sackville, said the town is following due process as directed by the negotiating team and that council stands behind the decisions of the negotiating team.
Higham said he thought the offer was a very generous package and was surprised that the union membership hadn’t thought so.
Higham said there are misconceptions about the wording in the offer. Salib said he did not think there were and that all union members had been given transparent access to the final offer.
CUPE 1188 is asking to return to the bargaining table. Since no more negotiation dates have been set, it is in the purview of the appointed conciliator to decide whether or not to declare an impasse in his report to the provincial government. If an impasse is declared, the union may choose to strike or the town might choose to lock out its employees.