Unifor 2300 workers on strike outside the Kitimat Public Works yard on Monday

Unifor 2300 workers on strike outside the Kitimat Public Works yard on Monday

Kitimat union on strike, recreation facilities closed

Unifor 2300 members have gone on strike as of Saturday as bargaining breaks down between them and the District of Kitimat.

Bargaining between the District of Kitimat and Unifor 2300 has seemingly broke down, with the District on one hand saying they’ve given a generous offer and the union on the other saying their issues aren’t being addressed.

The District of Kitimat gave a final offer to settle to the union last Thursday, Mayor Phil Germuth said through an open letter, which he said keeps the union to among the best-compensated workers in the province.

His letter also notes that while a brighter economy still lays on the horizon, the community simply cannot handle the burden of what they say would be a 12 per cent property tax increase.

“Many people, including seniors and others on fixed incomes, could be negatively affected,” he wrote.

Due to the strike, the Riverlodge, the Tamitik Arena and the Kitimat Ice Rink, and the swimming pool are closed, while picketers are lined up outside the Public Works yard and at the entrances to City Centre Mall, where the District of Kitimat have their offices on the third floor. The landfill remains open but there is a union presence at its entrance as well.

The District on February 28 released a document outlining their offer to the union, which sees 2.5 per cent wage increases every year up to 2017.

They say they’ll also add 10 full time positions over two years in the Leisure Services Department, and a list of nine other promises, from better training to an agreement to enter into an apprenticeship program.

The District through their release repeated that “the [DoK] has been bargaining in good faith, wishing to reach a settlement with Unifor 2300.

Oh but were it that simple.

The union sees the District of Kitimat’s public communications as bargaining through the media and do not see their actions as being done in good faith.

“When the District of Kitimat’s bargaining representatives, including Mayor and Council, resorted to the oldest trick in the bargaining and politics book, where they try and pull the wool over the public’s eyes by distracting the public’s attention from all of the serious issues in the work place as a whole and try and make it all about money and add in a few Bandaid solutions, we were shocked and surprised,” read an open letter penned by Unifor 2300.

In particular the union was shocked that the direction from the District’s bargaining representatives came from Mayor and Council itself, calling it “childish communication and inflammatory statements.”

With what the union saw as an “abusive relationship” from the council to the employees, the union say they have decided to post information of their own to shed light on “what is really going on.”

The union issued a flyer over the weekend with a number of concerns, saying the District is exploiting women in the workplace, denying training opportunities, and denying a DoK and Alcan historical wage relationship, among a number of other issues.

The District’s Chief Administrative Officer Ron Poole said that when the District released their information on their offer it was in reaction to hearing media reports citing wrong information about the town’s offer.

“It wasn’t done to be malicious in terms of bargaining,” said Poole.

He said as of Monday morning there were no scheduled bargaining meetings but was hopeful some would happen soon.

“We do now need to get back at focusing on how we can get through resolving this strike,” he said. “I respect their right to strike and we’ll hopefully get through this, sooner rather than later.”

The union through their open letter said the counter-offer to settle from the District of Kitimat last Thursday changed nothing of the town’s initial offer except date and title.

“As soon as the District of Kitimat is ready to actually start bargaining in good faith and stop surface bargaining, we will be here. Until such time, we will remain on strike,” concludes the letter, which is simply signed Unifor 2300.