“We Would Probably Be Filing Monday Morning”: Union Ready To Strike Next Week

Union President Lanny Chudyk says if the City of Edmonton doesn't come back to the table, CSU 52 may hit the picket lines as early as next Thursday

The union representing more than 6,000 workers involved in an ongoing labour dispute with the City of Edmonton is giving the City one more chance to return to the bargaining table before walking off the job.

Civic Service Union 52 (CSU 52) President Lanny Chudyk said this week he would file a strike notice on Monday morning if the City of Edmonton doesn’t return to the bargaining table or offer a new deal, meaning CSU 52 members could be walking the picket line as early as March 14. A work stoppage by CSU 52 would affect libraries, recreation centres, and a swath of other positions within both the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Police Service (EPS).

The statement comes in the wake of a proposal vote carried out by the City of Edmonton. The vote, approved by the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) late last month, circumvents union leadership and brought the City’s present offer — zero per cent, one per cent, two per cent, two per cent and 2.25 per cent across five years for a total of a 7.25 per cent wage increase — directly to union membership to consider.

CSU has previously countered the City’s proposed five-year deal with their own deal of 1.5 per cent, 1.5 per cent, 2 per cent, 3.75 per cent and 3.75 per cent for a 12.55 per cent wage increase.

That proposal vote concluded on March 7, but results will not be made public until the evening of March 8, allowing both parties 24 hours to contest the results. However, Chudyk said earlier this week that he doesn’t anticipate the vote will be in the city’s favour, given union membership voted 91 per cent in favour of a strike action earlier this year when offered a similar deal from the City.

In the wake of the vote, Chudyk said he’s expecting the City to reach out with a new offer in the coming days, or at least express a willingness to return to the bargaining process. If that doesn’t happen, Chudyk says he’ll pull the trigger on Monday morning.

“What we’ve generally concluded here at CSU 52 is that if there is no reach out from the employer after a strong no vote, we would probably be filing strike notice Monday morning around 9 a.m.,” he said.

There’s a 72-hour waiting period after filing the notice, which would mean the strike could start as early as Thursday morning. Chudyk said he’s planning to file for both municipal workers and Edmonton Public Library workers to be included in the notice.

Members of CSU 52’s Edmonton Public Library (EPL) bargaining unit staged a “strike practice” picketline at the Stanley A. Milner Library on the evening of March 7. They were joined by a number of people from other unions, lending their support.

Provincial Oversight

If CSU 52 strikes, it’ll mean shortcomings in a number of departments that deal with public safety and emergency related services, like 9-1-1 call dispatch where 94 per cent of employees belong to CSU 52. None of those positions are governed by the essential services legislation of the Alberta Labour Relations Code and as such, the potential impact on public safety has been fuelling rumours among CSU 52 that the provincial government may wade into the dispute.

“I’ve heard rumours the province may use some kind of legislation if we issue strike notice, or if the City were to lock us out,” Chudyk said, adding that the province could use a Public Emergency Tribunal (PET) to bring both parties into mandatory arbitration and force members back to work.

That back-to-work legislation would likely only apply to CSU 52’s municipal workers, meaning the EPL bargaining unit could still strike even if others are forced back to their positions.

“I’m not sure which part the government might be prepared to use. I know they have concerns around public safety issues, particularly in regard to our work areas at EPS,” he said, adding that if a PET were to be used, it may mean neither the City nor the union gets the outcome they’re fighting for.

“If the province gets involved here, neither CSU 52 or the City may be satisfied,” he said.

Urban Affairs reached out to Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Trade, to ask if the province has any intention using of back-to-work legislation, but they didn’t immediately respond to our questions.

In light of safety concerns, the City of Edmonton has requested that CSU 52 exempt those members from any potential labour disruptions, but thus far CSU 52 has only committed to exempting its Dedicated Accessible Transit Service (DATS) operators. The City has previously said it has contingency plans in place to deal with certain public safety shortfalls.