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CUPE files unfair labour practice over City of PA’s bargaining

Dispute between CUPE 882 and City of Prince Albert over a call centre has derailed a potential labour deal.
Prince Albert City Council
Prince Albert city workers fully walked off the job on Sept. 11.

REGINA - The union in the labour dispute with the City of Prince Albert has filed an unfair labour practice with the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board.

In a news release Tuesday, CUPE 882 confirmed they filed an unfair labour practice, saying they are seeking a ruling on the City of Prince Albert's conduct during bargaining to end the inside worker’s strike.

The filing is over what transpired during a meeting Sept. 29 between the union and the City to discuss a return-to-work agreement in the event of a ratification vote to end the strike. 

A tentative deal to end the month and a half long inside workers strike had seemingly been struck earlier in the week on Sept, 26, and voting to ratify was already started.

But CUPE claims that during a meeting on Sept. 29, the City verbally notified the union that a call centre was created at City Hall to manage calls during the strike. According to their news release they were also told that immediately upon returning to work, employees would be told that the call centre would remain in place, a change that the union says would impact at least four employees in the Clerk Steno classification and at least five in the Secretary II classification.

“CUPE 882 was blindsided by this decision. The employer did not disclose any information about restructuring at City Hall or the formation of a call centre at any point during bargaining,” said Mira Lewis, National Representative, in a statement. “The employer advised that it had no intention and no obligation to negotiate this change. This despite having discussions at the table regarding a City Hall restructuring Letter of Understanding which the employer proposed deleting. They told us the restructuring was complete all the while knowing they were planning this call centre and choosing not to mention it.”

In response to this turn of events, CUPE 882 called a halt to the ratification vote and ordered all ballots that had come in to be destroyed. 

“We were hopeful that the tentative agreement would be a step towards rebuilding workplace harmony and trust,” said Cara Stelmaschuk, CUPE 882 Vice President, in a statement. “To find out the employer was going to notify employees about restructuring as we walked into the building is concerning.”

In addition, the union is requesting the City provide the following information by noon Oct. 5:

1. A list of employees the employer anticipates being impacted by the continued use of the call centre;

2. How does the employer anticipate these employees are being impacted;

3. Will any jobs/classifications be changed as a result of the call centre;

4. Will any job descriptions be impacted;

5. How will day to day tasks be impacted; 

6. Will pay be impacted;

7. Any and all other information regarding the call centre that may be relevant to members.

The union is asking this be provided immediately and for a return to the bargaining table with the assistance of the special mediator, Kristin Anderson.

The City of Prince Albert has accused the union of “reneging” on the collective agreement, and in a statement defended the use of the call centre.

“We heard positive feedback from the public and administration about the efficiencies of addressing calls this way. The change includes relocating four clerk steno positions in City Hall to a central location within City Hall to continue to answer calls using a system that has been used by the City for two years,” said Kiley Bear, Director of Corporate Services for the City of Prince Albert, in a statement.

“The proposed change has no impact on salaries, hours of work and no employment will be lost as a result of the change. It is simply moving four individuals to new desks at City Hall.”

The City also contents the change does not meet the definition contained in the Saskatchewan Employment Act, and does not constitute “organizational change” as defined in the legislation. They also claim it does not violate the City’s collective agreement.  

“We are dismayed by the decision of the Union Executive,” said Bear. “Unfortunately, our employees are unable to return to work and are left to grapple with the last minute decision to destroy their ballots.” is Saskatchewan's home page. Bookmark us at this link.