The union local representing about 50 City of Flin Flon workers has ratified terms on a new collective agreement with the City, two-and-a-half years after their last one ran out.
Members of CUPE Local 228 voted in favour of ratifying a new deal with the City June 9, which will be in place until January 2026. City councillors formally voted in favour of approving the terms during their July 4 meeting, one that featured some members of the local in attendance.
The deal is retroactive to January 2020, when the previous collective agreement between the local and the City ran out. Over 80 per cent of the local’s members turned out to vote on the agreement, the terms of which were first agreed on in March.
“I think it’s great. It’s a weight off everybody’s shoulders. Members and council can now plan for the future because we now have a six-year deal that goes to 2026 - it gives everybody that stability to move forward,” said Marie Nixon, president of CUPE Local 228.
The new collective agreement features a 13.5 per cent wage increase for workers over the six year term, which will apply retroactively back to January 2020. Nixon also said the new deal includes clearer language regarding overtime distribution, allowances for members to increase banked time off and changes for bereavement leave, which will now cover step-parents, step-children, same-sex partners and other relatives not covered by previous bereavement policies.
The local covers City staff ranging from public parks and utility workers to office staff and City garage staff.
“We tried to get things to benefit the members and not gouge taxpayers, for lack of a better word. At the same time, we wanted an agreement that was fair to everybody on both sides,” she said.
“I think, based on the negotiations and the conversations we had, we were able to reach that agreement.”
The COVID-19 pandemic was blamed for much of the delay in reaching a new agreement - Nixon said at least one negotiation date between the local and the City was cancelled due to outbreaks of the disease. The election of an almost entirely new city council last October also extended the gap - Nixon said she didn’t assign blame to any particular person or reason for the long period without a deal.
"You lose half your members [during talks] because they’ve got COVID-19, or half of management can’t make it because they’ve got COVID-19. The pandemic was the hugest issue in that timeframe,” said Nixon.
“Then in October, we had elections for a brand new council. You have to give them time to get a feel for the land. Once we got that established, we got together. I don’t think anybody was to blame for the length of time between contracts because of everything that was going on in the world.”
The closure of Hudbay’s 777 mine and much of the company’s local operations last year also played a role in the discussions. Nixon said the union took the impact from the closure into account while negotiating.
“We realized that does have a huge impact on the community,” she said.
Nixon said the importance of City workers came to the fore during Flin Flon’s recent storm, which flooded several streets, parks and basements throughout the community - City workers were tasked with cleaning up the aftermath and despite some working long overtime hours, most jobs were done relatively quickly.