Mediation resumes today for municipal strike in Kitimat

The strike continues in its third month but mediation is set to resume today.

When Martin McIlwrath and Jeremy Dos Santos presented the results of a community petition to Kitimat Council, the presentation did not come with any of the usual high tempers which had marked past encounters.

The moment was in fact very low key, with McIlwrath reading a few comments — mainly the words from a recent Unifor 2300 letter — before getting to the petition, circulated by the union.

He said that as soon as a new collective agreement can be made, “we can start to rebuild our community.”

For the petition, the question had signatories asking the mayor and council to return to the table any agreements or offers already reached in the bargaining process, and to leave only outstanding issues left to be negotiated.

McIlwrath said that anything previously agreed to should not have to be re-bargained.

It was expected that mediation was to resume Today, which, if needed, could run to Wednesday.

There was no council response at the May 4 meeting as the mayor said they are still bound by terms of mediation which provides strict confidentiality requirements.

Speaking later in the week Mayor Phil Germuth did say that there has been no direction to the negotiating team to return any previous offers to the union, as requested through the petition. Germuth said to leave just the outstanding issues of the contract to be negotiated still wouldn’t put the sides any closer to an agreement.

“It doesn’t really matter if those are back on the table or not, if you can’t resolve the outstanding issues you’re still not getting anywhere,” said Germuth.

He added, “We’re looking forward to hopefully having a result to this labour dispute to get our workers back and have all our facilities back open. Of course it’s also had a big effect on people being able to get building permits and occupancy permits. We’re hoping that the negotiations are successful this time.”

A union presentation on May 4 was not the only conversation about the strike to be had that evening.

Council heard from two members of the public, urging an end to the strike.

The presenters were Tim Rice and Vickey Kokesch.

Kokesch in particular, through her role as chair for the Snowflake Community Fairgrounds Society, notes that there is only about a week left for the strike to get sorted out before the June 13 planned Bull-O-Rama will have to be called off.

The event is held in Tamitik Arena.

Kokesch said the event provides a lot of benefit to local businesses and community groups and all will be at a loss if the event has to be cancelled.

She transitioned to a personal reflection, saying that due to the strike she’s not been able to receive an occupancy permit for renovations on her home, which is costing her a lot through insurance.

“If your strategy is to starve out your workers you’re starving out other people too,” she said, asking to get District leadership back to the table and to not “outsource” the town’s leadership.

She also pointed to the disadvantage for her grandchildren not being able to access the pool.

“I want my grandkids to learn how to swim,” she said. “I don’t want my grandkids to be statistics.”

Rice shared a similar sentiment to the lack of leisure services.

“As you’re aware…drowning is the main cause of death for children. Kitimat kids are missing their chance at much needed swimming lessons to prepare for camping season at the lake,” he said.

Rice said even in general for his family it’s harder to maintain usual levels of fitness.

“We’re all suffering needlessly…especially those single parents and families on single income who are presently on strike,” he said.

He said his hope is for the District to do better getting to the bargaining table.

“Why is it that getting your negotiating team to the bargaining table and staying there has been like trying to herd cats?” he asked. “I expect my tax dollars to support good, reliable jobs. Not growing the number of precarious part-time positions.”