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City of Saint John faces potential strike by inside workers

The City of Saint John has received notice of a potential strike by members of CUPE Local 486, representing employees in largely administrative and support roles across various departments. (Julia Wright/CBC file photo - image credit)
The City of Saint John has received notice of a potential strike by members of CUPE Local 486, representing employees in largely administrative and support roles across various departments. (Julia Wright/CBC file photo - image credit)

The union local representing many of the administrative, support, IT and technical employees of the City of Saint John has given the city notice of its intention to strike.

According to Mike Davidson, CUPE's national servicing representative, Local 486 gave the city until Monday at midnight to return to bargaining in order to avoid a work stoppage.

He said 94 per cent of the membership voted in favour of a strike in a dispute that is largely over wages.

Local 486 represents just under 140 workers in various municipal departments that include emergency dispatch, court services, recreation, bylaw enforcement and financial services.

The City of Saint John and the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners have released a statement claiming their wage offer balances fairness and responsibility to employees and taxpayers.

They say their offer is in line with their wage escalation policy, which Local 486 representatives dispute.

Bill Neil, Mike Davidson, Brittany Doyle, Monic MacVicar, Lisa Chiasson, and Cheryl McConkey at a press conference last week.
Bill Neil, Mike Davidson, Brittany Doyle, Monic MacVicar, Lisa Chiasson, and Cheryl McConkey at a press conference last week.

Union representatives Bill Neil, Mike Davidson, Brittany Doyle, Monic MacVicar, Lisa Chiasson and Cheryl McConkey are shown at a press conference last week. (Submitted by Mike Davidson)

"This wage escalation policy was part of the sustainability plan for the City of Saint John," said Davidson. "And that wage escalation policy basically had a promise that when the finances of the City of Saint John improved, they would share that with the employees and unfortunately, now they're trying to renege on that promise."

But the statement from the city says its wage proposal "is fair and reasonable and fully compliant with Council's Wage Escalation Policy."

The wage escalation policy was a policy implemented by the city in 2019 to control the fact that its costs had been outpacing revenue growth.

Mike Davidson is a CUPE servicing representative and said the biggest sticking point between Local 486 and the City of Saint John is wages.
Mike Davidson is a CUPE servicing representative and said the biggest sticking point between Local 486 and the City of Saint John is wages.

Mike Davidson is a CUPE servicing representative and said the biggest sticking point between Local 486 and the City of Saint John is wages. (Submitted by Mike Davidson)

The city says it has contingency plans in place, though the public may experience delays in police response to non-emergency situations. It says it remains optimistic an agreement can be reached, according to the statement.

Davidson said the union is hopeful that a strike can still be avoided, but said the city is more focused on contingency plans than negotiating an agreement.

The two sides have been deadlocked since mid-August.