On Monday, Feb. 17. the City of Fredericton and CUPE Local 508 came to an agreement, ending the lock-out that began at 4:30PM the prior Friday.
Often called the “Outside Workers,” the members of CUPE Local 508 are much more than that. As explained on their Facebook page, they handle Roadway Operations, Water and Sewage, Parks and Trees and Fleet. They ensure that our city is beautiful, safe and functioning as it should.
They had been in negotiations with the city since October 2019, aiming to maintain wage parity with other municipalities in the province.
Jonas Watson, Vice President of CUPE Local 508, explained that the city was “stuck in the mud” and were not budging on any terms. Even after filing for conciliation, the city made no substantial movements.
On Feb. 13. they made an offer to the City of Fredericton with terms that were drastically lower than their initial ask. This offer would be retroactive to January 2019, and see the outside workers getting a wage increase of $1 per hour, and 2 percent increase related to New Brunswick’s consumer price index.
The city rejected this offer, which led to the decision to strike and, following a 24-hour strike notice, it began on the evening of Feb. 14.
“We did not want to strike, but the city put us in the position where they were not willing to negotiate,” said Watson.
He went further, stating that they did not wish to harm the city, but had to “show that [they were] willing to give up parts of our salary go on strike to get what we need.”
The city responded by imposing a lock-out on the members of CUPE Local 508, and bringing in strike-breakers to handle the workload.
The job advertisement for these outsourced workers detailed the expected rate of pay, which was higher than what the City of Fredericton had been paying their local workers. The cost for the city was increased further as they also opted to pay for their travel and lodging,
The strike lasted four days, and involved at least 125 employees, as well as the support of the community. It came to an end on the 17th, when the City of Fredericton agreed to the offer that had been proposed on the 13th.
Watson wholly believes that the workers deserve to have their hard work recognized, but doesn’t feel the city believes that.
“That's one thing that the city never came and actually said to us, they never once said you deserve what you asked for.”