RDOS union workers get new contract

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

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

The three-year deal, approved last week by a majority of the board, includes wage increases through the RDOS job evaluation program, 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 10-level 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.

Ashton said it was too “difficult” to support different deals for local government workers with comparable job descriptions.

Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer was the only other director to vote against the deal, which he described afterwards as “too steep.”

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 (negotiators) … and what our employees thought of our offer,” Newell explained of the so-called last offer vote.

A BCGEU spokesperson could not be reached for comment despite multiple requests.

All told, the agreement is expected to cost the RDOS an additional $141,262 in wages and benefits over the three years.