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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gov't strike plans underway in Vancouver, B.C.

The Lower Mainland could get real stinky, real quick as more than 15,000 government union members ready their picket signs this week. CUPE president Barry O'Neill warns the union is ready to hit the streets if negotiations with the GVRD's Labour Relations Bureau don't improve. "Depending on the next couple of days, people shouldn't be shocked if we start serving 72-hour strike notices this week," said O'Neill. "That's why we've been taking this public, so that people won't be caught off guard."

Bargaining teams for both sides met in Burnaby yesterday to resume talks, but are still far apart on wage and contract length details. The GVRD issued a release yesterday stating they were already in discussions with the City of Vancouver and CUPE to set essential service levels in case of a strike.

"That's pretty standard practice," confirmed O'Neill. "We'll agree with anything that could result in the loss of life or limb, but I suspect their list will be a bit longer than that."

The civil employees who could strike run the gamut from library staff to garbage collectors.

In 2000, garbage collection in Vancouver was stopped for more than two months as 2,500 CUPE members went on strike, effectively turning the entire city into a dump.

While wage freezes have been one of the main points of disagreement, O'Neill said the union also isn't happy with the GVRD insisting on a contract term that expires March 31, 2010.

"I can understand why they'd like us to have a contract that runs through the Olympics," he said. "But we don't have much of an appetite to be back negotiating two weeks after the Olympics."