CSU 52, representing many city employees, serves strike notice to Edmonton

Click to play video: 'CSU 52 serves strike notice to City of Edmonton'
CSU 52 serves strike notice to City of Edmonton
Civic Service Union 52, which represents thousands of employees, served strike notice to the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Public Library on Monday. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports. – Mar 11, 2024

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story implied employees at Telus World of Science – Edmonton would be affected by this strike action. While TWOS does have CSU 52 employees, it has its own bargaining contract separate from the City of Edmonton and therefore, the employees are not affected by this strike action. We regret the error.

Members of the Civic Service Union 52 that work for the City of Edmonton are prepared to walk off the job this week and served notice to their employer on Monday morning.

Strike notices were hand-delivered to the city and Edmonton Public Libraries just before 11 a.m., a union spokesperson said.

CSU 52 represents thousands of City of Edmonton workers, as well as employees in places like Capital Power and Edmonton Public Library.

The two sides have been negotiating for over a year but have been unable to reach an agreement. The union said its workers have not seen a raise in five years and the two sides are not far apart.

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The union said the city wants workers to accept a retroactive agreement that includes no pay raises for 2021, one per cent for 2022 and two per cent for 2023.

CSU 52 is trying to negotiate a three-year deal of 1.5 per cent in 2021, 1.5 per cent in 2022, and two per cent in 2023 with the possibility of adding a fourth and fifth year to the contract, the union said.

“That two per cent in 2023 is less than the 2.4 per cent council took in 2023,” Lanny Chudyk, president of CSU 52, said Monday afternoon.

The union said the city also rejected non-monetary proposals, such as allowing members of various religions to swap out Christian-based statutory holidays — so they could take the time off on their own holy days instead.

Chudyk said he’s been with the union for 50 years and was on standby all weekend waiting for a call from the city on moving forward — but he said it never came.

“I have never seen a time where senior city leaders, the mayor, councillors and bluntly, the city manager, have refused to speak to union leaders,” Chudyk said, adding he still wants to get back to the bargaining table.

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“My members do not want to walk,” he said, adding most can’t afford the financial hit of walking off the job. “But they feel, after five years of no wage increases, huge increases in inflation, interest rates going through the roof or seeing rents jumping $400-$500 a month.

The union represents more than 6,000 technical, professional, administrative and clerical workers within the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Public Library.

That includes police communications, 911 operators, 311 support agents, city planners, safety code and building code officers, permit processors, hundreds of recreation centre employees, animal welfare coordinators, tax assessors, librarians, along with pages and professional services that deal with things like business permits.

“A good number of these people are the lowest paid in the city, and they do impact every bit of business the City of Edmonton does.”

Ferah Karmali is a fitness instructor and front desk coordinator at the Clareview rec centre and said no one wants to strike — but they feel like they no longer have a choice.

“What we do for our jobs every day, and how we support and help our community,  is not being appreciated by the City of Edmonton — plain and simple,” she said.

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Click to play video: 'Edmonton rec centre workers, 911 operators votes overwhelmingly in favour of strike'
Edmonton rec centre workers, 911 operators votes overwhelmingly in favour of strike

On Friday, the city said it had put forward its best and final offer that is “compelling even in light of our current financial realities.”

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Following the 72-hour strike notice period that began Monday morning, the union said the picket line will begin Thursday at 11 a.m.

“Where is the leadership in this city? It’s regrettable that it has come to this, but our members have been more than patient and fair, asking for what is reasonable after five years of stagnant wages,” Chudyk said.

“This isn’t just about our members; it’s about the entire city. A strike will have ripple effects across Edmonton, impacting services that residents rely on daily, jeopardizing the safety of our citizens and paralyzing industries.

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Edmonton Police Service adjusts operations

Chudyk said about 1,000 of its members are with the Edmonton Police Service alone, working in roles such as criminal record checks and operating emergency communications, and the force will have to move staff around in order for 911 to continue functioning.

“911 will probably be staffed with uniformed officers. They will need to be taken off the street. So there will be an impact on public safety in that case,” Chudyk said.

The Edmonton Police Service said personnel have been redeployed to work as emergency communications officers and priority is being given to redeploying non-frontline workers.

Also effective Monday, the Police Information Check Section will not be accepting new applications for police information checks, local police records checks, civil fingerprinting, or alarm permits to prioritize maintaining requests on active criminal investigations.

Applications submitted before noon will be processed accordingly.

The PICS building is closed to the public until further notice and staff will not be answering public emails or phone calls, EPS said.

Any emails sent during the strike notification period and the following strike action period will not be received by PICS. If you require any PICS services, please wait to contact the section until strike action has concluded, police said.

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Other changes EPS announced Tuesday included:

  • Closure of EPS front counters at all locations except downtown.
  • Police seized vehicle storage lot: Public access hours will be limited to 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. Payment will be taken in debit or credit only — no cash. The lot will be closed on weekends, with storage rates adjusted as required. All inquiries must be made in person at the lot.
  • Property and exhibit section: access hours will be limited to 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Monday to Friday.
  • Public complaints: Priority will be given to maintaining legislative requirements within the public complaint process to ensure legal obligations are met in all investigations. Nonetheless, it is likely the management of some files may be slowed during this period.
  • Recruitment: Activities involving officers will continue, but there may be timing impacts and applicants are encouraged to stay in touch with their file manager. Active external/public postings and all civilian recruitment will be suspended.

In the event of prolonged strike action, police said more service adjustments may be needed.

City of Edmonton responds

On Monday, the city said it was disappointed that CSU 52 was unwilling to accept its offer.

“We put forward an offer that is compelling, even in light of our current financial realities,” city manager Andre Corbould said in a statement.

The city said it’s preparing for the labour action and contingency plans are in place to minimize service disruptions.

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“Effective immediately, these plans and the Emergency Operations Centre are being activated to ensure a coordinated approach to maintaining core services.”

The city said the following front-line services will continue:

  • Edmonton Fire Rescue Services
  • Edmonton Transit Service
  • Dedicated Accessible Transit Service (DATS)
  • Construction on capital projects
  • Snow clearing
  • Waste collection

That said, if the strike goes ahead on Thursday, services will be impacted at places like recreation facilities, city attractions, 311, the Edmonton Service Centre and building inspections and permits.

“We are hopeful we can come to a resolution with the fewest program and service disruptions,” acting chief people officer Cyndil Taylor said in a statement.

CSU 52 said it opted to remove DATS co-ordinators from the strike and sent the city a letter of understanding allowing those workers to stay on the job.

“That’s a very vulnerable population that need the DATS service. They rely on specialized transport to go to dialysis treatments, cancer treatments, and that —  we didn’t feel we could impact that in any way, shape or form,” Chudyk said.

Edmonton Public Library closing branches

The Edmonton Public Library said branches will close once the strike begins.

Members were advised to keep their borrowed items until libraries reopen and that no late fees will be handed out, as the library has been fine-free since 2020.

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Holds will also be kept until facilities reopen and those who have booked spaces will receive a refund.

Should city council get involved?

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said Monday he is concerned about service disruptions and encouraged both sides to get back to the bargaining table.

“Strikes and lockouts don’t help anyone. And that’s not the road that anyone desires to go to,” he said.

The mayor noted council is not involved in the negotiations, but at least one councillor thinks it’s time to get involved.

Tim Cartmell released a statement Monday saying following the advice of the city’s negotiation team has failed.

“Our unions and their leadership are our partners, not our opponents. We need to work collaboratively to get a contract in place.”

Cartmell said after that, the city and union need to have a conversation about productivity and efficiency, and “how we reconcile out workforce — union and non-union — such that we get the right people working on the right task.”

“There is a deal to be had here. Let’s get it done,” the councillor said.

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The city’s largest labour union said the last time CSU 52 went on strike was 1976, almost 50 years ago.

In addition to some City of Edmonton and Edmonton Public Library workers, CSU 52 also represents some workers within EPCOR and Telus World of Science — however, EPCOR and TWOS staff are not employed by the city and have a separate collective agreements, so they’re not affected by this job action.

Click to play video: 'Union representing many city employees slams Edmonton council spending'
Union representing many city employees slams Edmonton council spending


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