February 13, 2015 is the day Unifor 2300 gave strike notice to the District of Kitimat.
It wasn’t long after that the strike when officially in to force after the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on a final offer.
Certainly both sides were eager for a resolution but it took more than 100 days for the strike to get resolved, and not before it was clear the relationship between the employer and employees would be severely strained.
Among the promises which came out of the new Collective Agreement was a commitment for the council and the union to sit down at least once a year and discuss any potential issues needing resolved.
The idea was it would prevent any confusion over problems either the union or the District was experiencing which could cause friction leading in to any future bargaining.
After bargaining, arguments at council meetings and the work of a mediator a new deal was signed June 9.
Now it’s eight months later since employees went back to work, but it’s still fairly early to know precisely how the new relationship is going to be. The local Unifor Business Agent Martin McIlwrath says the first union-council meeting to take place since the strike occurred January 13 and was a good start, while noting relationships aren’t forged in a single day.
“I think enough time had passed and it was a good opportunity to get together and talk about what the future looks like,” said Martin McIlwrath.
While the union and the District of Kitimat administration have met on many occasions this meeting was the first between council and the union.
“That was basically the initial meeting. I think both sides were in agreement that we want to have a better relationship. That meeting was really the first kick off to that better relationship going forward.”
Mayor Phil Germuth spoke highly of the meeting saying the discussions all went really well.
Councillors also spoke to the positive aspect of the meeting at the January 18 council meeting where Councillor Mary Murphy and Acting Mayor Rob Goffinet both referred to it in their council reports.
“That was a very productive meeting,” said Murphy.
Goffinet added to that saying, “The meeting last week with Unifor 2300…was forward thinking, absolutely pleasant, it was productive and it bodes well for the coming years of our relationship.”
McIlwrath said there’s been learning curves as everyone settles in to a new Collective Agreement and time is needed as everyone figures out their new or refined roles.
“As a union we’ve been actively working with administration on how the new collective agreement is going to roll out,” he said.