Sunday, October 26, 2008


It's Canada's smallest province, and it's the smallest capital city in the country, but no situation is too small for solidarity. The number of strikers- five, but the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is standing behind their members. The sewage treatment workers of the City of Charlottetown have been on strike for a week now, and CUPE organized a demonstration in solidarity with their members. Here's the story from CUPE.
CUPE backs Charlottetown strikers:
More than 100 CUPE members from across PEI, rallied in front of Charlottetown’s city hall Oct. 24, to support CUPE 501's week-old strike.
Paul Moist told the crowd this strike is about fairness and respect. “The solidarity evident in the community tells me that these members have broad support. Our five striking members are not alone; they have the full support of 570,000 CUPE members from coast to coast.”
Moist urged the city to return to the table. “Our waste water treatment plant workers provide an important service, one that deserves to be fairly recognized at the bargaining table.”
CUPE PEI President, Milo Murray said “This strike is about the City of Charlottetown spending $20 million renovating their waste water treatment plant, bringing it from a Level 2 to a Level 4 operation, but refusing to pay five highly skilled workers accordingly.”
The president of the PEI Federation of Labour, Carl Pursey, also stressed the solidarity amongst unionized workers on the Island, and brought along the support of the Federation.
The five members of CUPE 501 have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2006. Negotiations began in Feb. 2008.
Here's how the event was reported in the local newspaper 'The Guardian'.
Union stages protest in Charlottetown to support striking treatment plant workers :
The Guardian
In a dramatic show of solidarity, the union representing five workers on strike from the Charlottetown wastewater treatment plant staged a protest in front of City Hall Friday afternoon.
About a hundred members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), including its national president, as well as members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the P.E.I. Federation of Labour brought flags, balloons and whistles to the protest to make noise in support of the striking plant workers.
The five members of CUPE local 501 have been without a contract since December 2006. Negotiations for a new contract began in February of this year, but those negotiations broke down recently.
The workers have been on strike for a week.
“There is no negotiations at this point,” said the striking workers' local CUPE representative Bill MacKinnon. “The conciliator phoned me in the middle of the week and tried to go for some sort of settlement and we did make an offer in terms of creating steps in our collective agreement to allow them the wage increase they want and also get the adjustment we're looking for but it was dismissed, so we're back at the picket line.”
The workers are looking for a two per cent wage adjustment to recognize they have been raised two levels in their training and classification.
That would cost the city only about $7,900 more than they are offering, MacKinnon said.
When CUPE representatives told the crowd of protesting members this figure, they booed, jeered and blew squealing whistles in discontent.
Carl Pursey, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Labour, said the strike was about more than just respect for CUPE members, but for the whole labour movement.
“We'll show the city that they're not just taking CUPE on, but everybody.”
Roland Ford, one of the five plant workers on strike, said he and his co-workers are looking for an acknowledgement of respect for their work.
“We want city council to come back to the table and give us a fair settlement,” Ford told the crowd who cheered and chanted for him.
National CUPE president Paul Moist travelled to Charlottetown for the protest Friday.
“We're here today as a union that probably represents 570,000 workers from coast to coast,” Moist told the rally. “These five members will have the weight of our union behind them until their work is respected, and until they get a good collective agreement.”
Moist stressed the important services provided by the striking plant workers, and that they deserve the marginal increases they are asking for.
MacKinnon agreed.
“These people have lived and died the renovations of that plant, starting in 2005 until the renovations were complete,” MacKinnon said. “And they were hired for a level-2 plant, but they're now operating a level-4 plant. We're simply looking for some recognition that this has value attached to it — is that too much to ask?”
He said the $7,900 difference between what the workers are looking for and what the city is offering represents about half the amount the city spent on new sculptures of chairs in one city park.
“Not only that, they've hired 24/7 security guards (at the plant) and they've got a company in there contracting in to attempt to do our work — they can afford our offer?”

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