City Walks Away From Negotiating Table, Triggering the Strike Clock

CSU 52 and the City of Edmonton have entered into a 14-day cooling off period after labour negotiations broke down this month. CSU 52 now plans to hold a strike vote.

The countdown is on. A 14-day cooling off period has begun after mediation between Civic Service Union 52 (CSU 52) and the City of Edmonton broke down earlier this month, paving the way for an official strike vote.

Union president Lanny Chudyk has called CSU 52 membership to emergency meetings (scheduled for Jan. 25, 28 and 30) to address the breakdown between the two parties and is set to apply to the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) for a strike vote, following the cooling off period which ends on January 30.

The City and CSU 52 have been in mediation since December and in the collective bargaining process for nearly two years.

What’s the Rift?

The dispute has focused primarily around the issue of wage increases for CSU 52 membership, who make up roughly 5,000 employees across the City’s operations, including at recreation centres, payroll, libraries and areas of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS), among others. So far, the City has remained steadfast on an offer of zero per cent, one and two per cent across three years. CSU 52, who have gone without a collective agreement since 2018 and who voluntarily took no increases in 2019 and 2020 due to COVID-19, say that offer is too little in the face of cost-of-living increases and comparable position wages in cities like Calgary and Vancouver.

Chudyk said CSU 52 leadership feels that the City’s bargaining hasn’t been in good faith.

“We do not feel the employer came to the table with any serious negotiating intent whatsoever,” he said. “We feel they came because, legislatively, they had to.”

That sentiment is echoed in a statement issued by the union on January 22 saying CSU 52’s bargaining committee has witnessed a lack of commitment from the City to reach a fair settlement.

For its part, the City said it chose to walk away from negotiations after it felt the parties could not reach an agreement.

“Though all efforts were made to reach a deal with CSU 52, which followed a lengthy period of negotiations, including 30 bargaining sessions and multiple mediation dates, the parties could not achieve a settlement,” a statement from the City read. “After careful consideration, the City has asked the mediator to write out (end mediation).”

What Comes Next?

Should CSU 52’s strike vote succeed, the union has 120 days in which it is able to provide strike notice to the City. Unionized workers could walk off their jobs any time during that period so long as they provide the City with 72 hours advance notice.

In October of 2023, CSU 52 membership voted 86 per cent in favour of a strike if a deal was not able to be negotiated.

Chudyk said the breakdown of negotiations leaves CSU 52 no other recourse.

“We are left with no other option than to take a strike vote,” he said. “While City Council has taken a 4.8 per cent raise over the last two years, they are leaving City employees with their fifth year without a raise. Our membership cannot afford to strike, but they also cannot afford to bear the brunt of this injustice any longer.”


While the outcome of a strike vote is still being determined, work is underway on some of the City’s contingency plans. The Edmonton Police Service is already training officers to begin taking over some of the roles filled by CSU 52 members, namely on their Emergency Communications & Operations Management Branch (ECOMB).

“All areas of the EPS, including ECOMB, are working on their contingency plans in the event of a work stoppage,” the EPS said in a statement. “Specific to ECOMB, work is underway to re-certify sworn members who have previous experience in ECOMB answering emergency calls.”

I asked EPS what impact relocating those officers to dispatch might have on efforts to address growing crime in the City, but they didn’t answer that question.

However, with 94 per cent of the EPS 911 call evaluators belonging to CSU 52, Chudyk says if there is a work stoppage, it’s going to hurt.

“If my members are forced to strike, it will certainly affect every aspect of city life, including safety issues at EPS and communications and calls centres,” he said.