About three dozen members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees showed up at last night’s council meeting to demonstrate support for Sackville municipal workers whose contract expired more than a year ago.
The town and representatives for CUPE local 1188 had been taking part in talks with a provincially-appointed conciliator until the town presented its “final offer” about 10 days ago.
Town CAO Phil Handrahan says “we’re waiting to hear from the union as to whether [its] membership supports the final offer.”
But, CUPE national representative Marcos Salib says members of local 1188, which includes 28 full-time and seven part-time inside and outside workers, are anxious to get back to bargaining. He adds that the two sides are very close to an agreement on wages and the only real, outstanding issue involves seniority.
Salib explains that the town wants to eliminate seniority as one of the required considerations when a part-time or temporary worker applies for a permanent position.
“It’s always been recognized, especially if you do the job possibly for a year or two,” he says. “So why shouldn’t your seniority count when you’re applying for possibly the same job you’ve done already?”
Salib says the members discussed the town’s final offer last week.
“My understanding is that some [town] councillors are not in support of removing the seniority clause,” he says, adding that his members want to find out why the town is taking such a hardline position on a non-monetary issue.
Councillors did not discuss the labour negotiations publicly during last night’s meeting.
Council asked for human rights declaration
Meantime, councillors heard from three residents who are urging the town to respond to “the expressions of fear, hatred, intolerance and bigotry taking place locally, nationally and internationally.”
Leah Huff called on council to declare its commitment to diversity and its dedication to ensuring that the town is a place of sanctuary and solidarity.
“We are heartened by our mayor’s response to the recent expression of hate and prejudice,” she said referring to John Higham’s comments last month condemning the murder of six worshippers at a mosque in Quebec City and the drawing of a swastika in the snow on the Mount Allison University football field.
“Our request tonight is for the Town of Sackville to make a symbolic and powerful declaration about being a place of welcome, safety and solidarity.”
Huff said that she and her two colleagues plan to create a citizen’s working group called the Sackville Inclusion Network to promote the town as a welcoming place.
Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’
Shoshanna Wingate suggested an official declaration is needed for a number of reasons such as “recent events in the U.S., including the executive orders known as the ‘Muslim Ban’ and legislation that will limit the rights of LGBTQ people” which have had “a palpable effect on many Sackville citizens.”
Glenn Copeland added, “it is crucial that we speak out with the explicit message that racism, prejudice and hate will not be tolerated.”
After the presentation, councillors Megan Mitton and Bill Evans seemed open to the idea of a symbolic declaration.
“This speaks to me, this resonates with me and I would be happy to make such a motion after we’ve had a chance to discuss it,” Evans said.