Councillor Mary Murphy is still encouraging people to attend the annual union-organized Labour Day picnic, even if Kitimat Council has been specifically excluded from the event.
Murphy asked for the letter from Unifor Local 2301, included in the August 17 council agenda package’s information packet, to be brought out under new business so she could speak to the issue.
The letter is the one, signed by the local Unifor Business Agent Martin McIlwrath, which says the Local 2301 executive has motioned to “not allow Kitimat Mayor & Council to attend our 2015 Labour Day picnic event.”
No one from Local 2301 has so far responded to the Sentinel’s request for comment, and we were told last week the entire executive was away on union business and unreachable.
An effort to reach Local 2300 also has not resulted in a returned phone call.
In reacting to the letter at the August 17 council meeting, Murphy said that as much as she’ll respect the union’s wishes she encouraged others not to boycott the event.
“I wanted to say I hope that everybody puts their differences aside and…attend the labour day picnic and make it a really successful event,” she said.
She also highlighted her own history in establishing the picnic as an event in Kitimat.
“I plan on following their wishes and not attend but I did want the community to know I was instrumental, along with many of my family members, of making that day a success. It’s advocating [improved] working conditions for labour and it’s a really good social and educational event. It’s in the honour of labour.”
Mayor Phil Germuth said he hasn’t had much conversation with 2300 members on this issue but he has had a few words with 2301 members.
“I’ve heard through the grapevine that some of  workers weren’t happy [with the letter],” he said, but said he’s had a number of 2301 workers come by and all have been quite upset over it.
His contact with the 2301 executive itself has been limited since the release of the letter. Germuth recalled what he felt was a very cordial conversation he had with 2301 president Sean O’Driscoll at Rio Tinto Alcan’s first pour special event in July where relationship building was brought up, but that was it until he learned they wouldn’t be invited to the picnic.
“We had a good time. We talked about building the relations,” said Germuth of that event in July.
Germuth also encourages people to attend the event and to not shut it out due to this current controversy.
“We’re not advocating anyone boycott it. You should go out and have a good time,” he said, adding that he understands it’s an executive-specific decision and he isn’t holding any hard feelings on this to the general 2301 membership.