RE­AL­ITY CHEQUE

City, unions still miles apart in talks:

Calgary Sun - - FRONT PAGE - SHAWN LO­GAN slo­[email protected]­media.com @ShawnLo­gan403

A year af­ter col­lec­tive agree­ments for all 10 of the city’s unions ex­pired, nei­ther side ap­pears ready to blink amid pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions, say city coun­cil­lors and union lead­ers.

But despite the bar­gain­ing im­passe, which con­tin­ued through the city set­ting its four-year bud­get in Novem­ber, no labour ac­tion is cur­rently on the hori­zon, said D’Arcy Lanovaz, pres­i­dent of Cana­dian Union of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees Lo­cal 38, which is re­spon­si­ble for the city’s in­side work­ers.

“We’re still a ways apart. Our mem­bers are fully un­der­stand­ing — we knew it was go­ing to be a bit of a hard road com­pared to past ne­go­ti­a­tions,” he said.

“We’re still ne­go­ti­at­ing, but we haven’t even gone to me­di­a­tion. A strike is al­ways a tool but no­body wants to go there.”

Con­tracts for nine city unions ex­pired last Jan. 5, while the 10th and fi­nal bar­gain­ing unit, the In­ter­na­tional Brother­hood of Elec­tri­cal Work­ers, saw theirs lapse last March. Among those con­tracts ex­pir­ing were the city’s two largest unions, gov­ern­ing in­side and out­side work­ers, who had been granted fouryear deals just be­fore Al­berta was hit with a pun­ish­ing re­ces­sion, which guar­an­teed 12.5 per cent in salary hikes over the term.

Those agree­ments were inked in 2014, just days af­ter in­side work­ers, the city’s largest union, over­whelm­ingly ap­proved a strike man­date.

Those gen­er­ous agree­ments, dur­ing a pe­riod of sig­nif­i­cant job cuts and re­struc­tur­ing in the city’s pri­vate sec­tor, prompted some civic politi­cians to sug­gest unions needed to con­sider steep con­ces­sions on pay, po­ten­tially in­clud­ing wage freezes as a start­ing point.

Coun. Ward Suther­land, who wouldn’t dis­cuss de­tails of what the city has of­fered to unions, said the city’s fouryear bud­get has al­ready pen­cilled in what they’re hop­ing unions will ac­cept from a fi­nan­cial stand­point, but so far they haven’t res­onated with union lead­er­ship.

“There seems to be very lit­tle ap­petite to move in the di­rec­tion we’ve given to them,” he said.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed we haven’t been able to find a rea­son­able so­lu­tion in this cur­rent eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment.”

Suther­land added an­other stick­ing point has grown around the city’s de­sire to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of con­tract­ing out some work tra­di­tion­ally re­served for union­ized em­ploy­ees.

Later this month, a coun­cil com­mit­tee will re­ceive a re­port from an in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant on the mer­its of pri­va­tiz­ing some city ser­vices.

“We’re go­ing into a new phase of look­ing at all the ser­vices we de­liver in Cal­gary and should we be in this busi­ness?” said Suther­land, who said he would like to see onethird of the city’s waste and re­cy­cling depart­ment farmed out to the pri­vate sec­tor along with other pos­si­bil­i­ties.

“Un­for­tu­nately, there have been pre­vi­ous agree­ments that made it dif­fi­cult for us to deal with these is­sues.”

From Lanovaz’s per­spec­tive, con­tract­ing out ser­vices to pri­vate con­trac­tors can of­ten re­sult in un­in­tended, and of­ten ex­pen­sive, con­se­quences to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“We don’t see any real value in con­tract­ing out these ser­vices — it doesn’t make a lot of fi­nan­cial sense,” he said.

Les Kamin­ski, pres­i­dent of the Cal­gary Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion, said while he ap­pre­ci­ates the city’s de­sire to keep a tighter rein on ex­penses, Cal­gary’s econ­omy has con­tin­ued to re­bound since the down­turn.

“Our econ­omy has ac­tu­ally re­cov­ered quite a bit — it’s cer­tainly not as bad as it was a cou­ple of years ago,” he said.

“Hope­fully the price of oil will keep go­ing up. That’s one of the up­sides to not hav­ing a con­tract is we can see what the econ­omy is go­ing to do.”

Given the gap be­tween the two sides, Coun. Shane Keat­ing fully ex­pects unions will play the wait­ing game in hopes the city’s econ­omy con­tin­ues to im­prove, giv­ing them a stronger po­si­tion at the bar­gain­ing ta­ble

“I don’t ex­pect any­thing will change in the near fu­ture,” he said. “I think they’ll just keep wait­ing for the econ­omy to im­prove but at some point you have to make a de­ci­sion. But we know we can’t just con­tinue as is.”

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