Municipal workers in Oliver have ratified a new four-year agreement with the town.
A settlement was reached last Wednesday evening and comes after the local had taken a 100 per cent strike vote last month.
“Negotiations are tough in the best of times and it was nice to avert a labour disruption because I don’t think anybody was looking forward to that,” said Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes.
“A really important thing I think for everyone was the fact the town put forward some wording to CUPE in regards to irrigation water. Part of our proposal was that both the town and union agree that water and sewer services that are provided by the town would be deemed essential. It was a source of comfort for the town that we now have it entrenched in our binding contract that those services are essential.”
If job-action was taken by the municipal employees it would have come at a critical time, as annual canal maintenance is slated for the first week of April. A breakdown in negotiations in late February had Hovanes calling out the union, stating they were “attempting to hold local farmers hostage to satisfy their wage demands.” About 100 Oliver area homes in the summer use agricultural water from the canal as domestic water.
“After a very tough round of bargaining, we are pleased that we have a new collective agreement that is both fair and reasonable,” said CUPE 608 unit-chair Karen Nelson. “CUPE 608 members want the community to know that they held the well-being of the community at the front of their concerns throughout our negotiations. We are very happy to be able to continue providing quality public services to a community we love.”
The settlement includes wage increases of two per cent, 1.75 per cent, 1.75 per cent and two per cent in each of the four years, as well as a boot allowance, an increase in shift premiums and the addition of bio-hazard pay for workers who maintain the sewer system.
Rachel Champagne, a member of the CUPE bargaining committee, said that there were many miscommunications throughout negotiations.
“Once we started negotiating directly with council and management it became much easier to work out a deal,” said Champagne.
CUPE 608 represents 24 inside and outside workers in the Town of Oliver. Members do a variety of work from maintaining roads and water and sewer systems, to conducting building inspections to clerical duties at Town Hall. The new contract runs until Dec. 31, 2014.