Edmonton public library and city administrative staff want to strike: union

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Edmonton librarians and other administrative city employees are preparing for a potential strike that could cause delays, closures and other interruptions to city services later this year.

Two recent informal polls by Civic Service Union (CSU) 52 found the vast majority of workers in both the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) and City of Edmonton (COE) bargaining units are willing to strike — 86 per cent of EPL staff surveyed this month, and 70 per cent of COE workers including 911 dispatchers, clerical and IT staff, front-facing recreation centre staff, planners and police communications surveyed in September support taking action. CSU 52 is one of five unions representing civic employees.

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Local union president Lanny Chudyk said negotiations have stalled. Workers have been without a contract since 2020 and haven’t had raises since 2018, he said. The city and union jointly applied for mediation last week.

“If we were to go to a work stoppage, we don’t take that lightly. We’re not doing it because we’re greedy — we would be willing to settle for a fair and equitable offer,” he told Postmedia Monday.If mediation is unsuccessfull,

Chudyk said workers could take strike action in late December or after the holiday season. He said paratransit service (DATS) workers who are part of this union would be excluded from a strike.

What the city is proposing — a freeze for 2021, a one per cent raise in 2022 and a two per cent raise in 2023 — is not enough, Chudyk said. Workers already took freezes during the pandemic.

“It’s not fair, it’s not equitable, and they have been saying loud and clearly to their union leadership that is not sufficient,” he said.

“I can’t emphasize how important CSU’s structure is to every single service that citizens rely on, and every single service other unions in the city provide also.”

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He hopes the city will make concessions during mediation and they can reach a deal without needing to strike. “ATU and the city are close to an agreement on their DATS negotiations that will be satisfactory to both parties,” he said Monday.

Chudyk did not specify how much of an increase the union is seeking.

City spokeswoman Lisa Glover said the city is optimistic the mediator will help both parties reach an agreement.

“The city is committed to reaching an agreement that is fair and equitable for employees, the city and taxpayers. The city has, and will continue to, bargain fairly and in a fiscally responsible way,” she stated in an email Monday.

The city has a contingency plan in the event of a work stoppage, she added.

Settlements and taxes

The union’s call for salary increases comes after an arbitrator imposed a new contract between the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) and the city in July, an increase that factors into the higher-than-expected tax rate proposed for next year.

But Chudyk said it’s disingenuous to frame the raise for police officers, and other pending salary settlements, as the reason behind the steep increase proposed.

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Instead, he said Edmonton should have budgeted better and followed how contract negotiations have been playing out in other Canadian cities. The city is also carrying a high debt load because of significant capital spending in the past several years, he said.

“I was shocked to hear they may not have budgeted (for the police increase),” Chudyk said.

“Poor budgeting, dream budgeting, and then when you know you already have a significant capital expenditure issue, and taxes going up … $100 million for bike lanes in that atmosphere is kind of unbelievable.”

Meanwhile, the union representing DATS drivers is close to reaching a deal with the city, said Steve Bradshaw, president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 569.

“ATU and the city are close to an agreement on their DATS negotiations that will be satisfactory to both parties,” he said Monday.

A ratification vote is expected in the next few weeks.

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