Gap opens up between Penticton municipal workers

New deal for regional district employees gets thumbs-down from Penticton directors who think it's unfair to city workers.

RDOS staff appear to have a new contract.

RDOS staff appear to have a new contract.

Unionized employees at the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen have a new contract, despite the objections of some board members.

Besides improvements to some benefits, the three-year deal also includes pay increases averaging three per cent for 23 workers in 2012, then one per cent annually for everyone in the final two years.

RDOS chief administrative officer Bill Newell said the bump for some in the first year will smooth out inequalities within the pay grid.

“There were some positions that were overpaid compared to market, so they’re the ones who don’t get any increase until it catches up,” he told the board.

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton and Councillors Andrew Jakubeit, John Vassilaki and Garry Litke, who also sit on the RDOS board, all voted against the deal, because it’s slightly richer than one signed by city workers in 2011. That four-year agreement included a $300 signing bonus in the first year, then one per cent annual pay increases after.

The 55 unionized RDOS staff members are represented by the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and had been without a contract since Jan. 1.

The workers took a strike vote in May and the two sides entered mediation in June. The RDOS then employed a rarely used section of the labour code to compel workers to vote on its last offer, which they accepted.

“We thought that there may be some difference between the BCGEU… and what our employees thought of our offer,” Newell explained.

A union spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday. All told, the agreement is expected to cost the RDOS an additional $141,262 over the life of it.