Edmonton applies for lockout vote in response to city workers’ union strike vote

Click to play video: 'Edmonton civic workers could go on strike in January 2024'
Edmonton civic workers could go on strike in January 2024
Edmonton city workers represented by Civic Service Union 52 say they are fed up. They haven't had a raise in five years. Contract negotiations with the city are underway but if an agreement isn't reached soon, it could mean a strike by the middle of January 2024. Sarah Komadina has more. – Dec 15, 2023

There’s been an update to labour negotiations between the City of Edmonton and the Civic Service Union (CSU 52) that represents thousands of city employees, including 911 operators, 311 agents, safety and building code officers, recreation centre employees, animal welfare co-ordinators, tax assessors and librarians.

On Feb. 8, the city applied to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for approval of a lockout poll (vote).

“This is in response to CSU 52 applying for and holding a strike vote,” a spokesperson for the city told Global News on Friday.

“The city does not plan to lockout CSU 52 members unless it is required to minimize and manage the disruption a strike is causing to city services and the impact to Edmontonians.”

On its website, the CSU 52 says it will be conducting a strike vote for City of Edmonton workers between Friday, Feb. 9 and Monday, Feb. 12 “to determine if the majority of eligible employees who vote authorize taking strike action against the City of Edmonton.” The strike vote for Edmonton Public Library employees was done earlier, the union said in a news release.

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Late Friday afternoon, the union released the results of the library members’ vote. With 93 per cent voter turnout, 94 per cent of union members voted in support of a strike.

“The overwhelming support for a strike mandate demonstrates our members’ unwavering desire to secure fair and equitable treatment in the workplace,” CSU 52 president Lanny Chudyk said. “The offer from the Edmonton Public Library falls short of addressing our fundamental concerns, and it is imperative that we stand together to advocate for our rights as workers. This vote sends a clear message that we are prepared to take action to ensure our voices are heard and respected.”

It said that a lockout application by the city or EPL doesn’t mean they’ve called a lockout. CSU 52 said the employer has to give the union 72 hours’ notice before a lockout can begin.

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At the end of January, CSU 52 held several emergency meetings with members as contract negotiations with the city stalled. The union said it would apply to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for a strike vote after the 14-day cooling-off period, that ended Jan. 30.

“We are left with no other option than to take a strike vote,” CSU 52 president Lanny Chudyk said on Jan. 22. “While city council has taken a 4.8 per cent raise over the last two years, they are leaving city employees with their fifth year without a raise. Our membership cannot afford to strike, but they also cannot afford to bear the brunt of this injustice any longer.”

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Click to play video: 'Edmonton DATS accessible transit drivers vote to strike if negotiations fail'
Edmonton DATS accessible transit drivers vote to strike if negotiations fail

Since then, the situation has devolved.

In a Feb. 6 email to city employees that was shared with Global News, the city told employees that it was taking steps to allow workers to vote on the “best and final offer” provided to the union during mediation and that the decision was made because the union did not bring the offer to its members to decide on.

Therefore, the city is asking the Alberta Labour Relations Board to hold a proposal vote with union members on the city’s offer. If the majority of members vote yes, it would avoid a strike or lockout, the city explained.

In a news release Friday, the city said its best and final offer for CSU 52 members included a 7.25 per cent wage increase over a five-year period (2021-2025).

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The city said its negotiations with the union included 30 bargaining sessions and multiple mediation dates.

“We value our employees and the contributions they make to the city and all Edmontonians,” said Michelle Plouffe, the city’s chief people officer. “We believe we have a strong offer and that every CSU 52 member should have their say on the offer.”

Click to play video: 'Edmontonians concerned with 911 calls being transferred to 811'
Edmontonians concerned with 911 calls being transferred to 811

CSU 52 represents more than 6,000 technical, professional, administrative and clerical workers within the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Public Library including police communications (911 operators), DATS schedulers, 311 support agents, city planners, safety code and building code officers, permit processors, recreation centre employees, animal welfare co-ordinators, tax assessors, librarians, pages and professional services.

“If the union chose to go on strike — CSU 52 touches just about every service that the city offers in one way or another, not always directly, but in some related way — so, I think we’d see the impact on almost every service the city provides,” Ward pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell said on Jan. 22.

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“Some of the services are critical so they would continue in some way. Some of them are less critical, so they might not,” he explained.

“I’d like to see us get to a point where we don’t see a strike or other job action, but this is part of the labour negotiating process. So, if this is a step that needs to be taken, in the union’s view, to get to an agreed-upon settlement, then that’s their prerogative,” Cartmell said.

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