Halifax Water poised for strike or lockout; both sides say they want talks to continue
Above Watch: Tensions are high at Halifax Water this week after contract talks between the union and the employer broke off last month and either side could face job action. Global’s Natasha Pace reports.
HALIFAX – Unionized workers at Halifax Water are in an a legal strike position, but say they want to get back to the negotiating table.
The union filed a 48-hour strike notice Monday, and were in a legal position to walk off the job as of 1:30 Wednesday afternoon. Halifax Water was in a legal position to lock-out it’s employees two hours later.
“With bargaining you have to actually bargain and unfortunately the employer hasn’t been bargaining. They’ve been saying this is our proposal, take it or leave it,” said Naomi Stewart, CUPE.
Negotiations between workers and Halifax Water have been ongoing since February 2014.
The union says they’re not ready to strike – yet. “Our intention is to go back to the table and to continue to bargain,” said Stewart.
Halifax Water says they have a contingency plan in place in case there is a strike in the coming days, and will use non-union employees to make sure water, waste water and storm water systems operate.
“People count on us to run their businesses, homes, hospitals, fire protection. We’re not in a business where you can just shut down, so we’ll keep the systems running. There will be some long days for non union staff but we’ll keep it running,” said James Campbell, spokesperson for Halifax Water.
The main sticking points in negotiations are wages and the company’s pension plan. “The pension, unfortunately, the employer wants to completely gut the plan that there is now,” Stewart said.
Halifax Water said they aren’t moving from their position because the plan is unsustainable and under-funded. “It’s about 48 million dollars under-funded as of March of last year and it’s not getting any better, so something has to be done,” Campbell said.
Both sides say they want to hammer out a deal, but no dates to get back to the table have been set. There has never been a strike before at Halifax Water in the company’s 70-year history.