Union rejects new contract with city

Unionized city workers in Fort St. John have rejected a new contract deal with the city.

Sources involved with the vote, which took place this past Friday, say 64 per cent of members voted to reject the agreement.

The city and the B.C. Government Employees’ Union held a day of mediation talks last week after contract negotiations stalled over wages and benefits in May and came to a tentative agreement. Votes were counted on Monday.

“The committee did their best at the table, but it did not go well with the membership,” said Rashid Hasan, the city’s human resources director and lead negotiator.

Calls to the BCGEU were not immediately returned.

City workers have been without a contract since the end of 2014, and in June voted overwhelming in favour of strike action if an agreement was not made.

The union has not given strike notice to the city, and any strike action will not affect Canada Day services, Hasan said.

Hasan added the city is applying to the provincial labour board with a list of essential services jobs it wants protected in the event of a strike.

This would include water and wastewater staff, along with operations support staff for the RCMP and fire department. Police officers and firefighters are covered under a separate contract.

“The health and safety for our citizens is of utmost importance,” said Hasan.

Services such as garbage collection will remain ongoing as that work is contracted out, Hasan said.

Hasan said the city did not ask for any concessions from the union, and instead offered an “enhanced” contract package, though the terms of the full agreement are unknown at this time.

“We did not take away anything,” he said.

Hasan did not rule out the possibility of future mediation.

“These are our employees, we value them, we respect their right to go on strike or come back to the table to mediate,” Hasan said.

We will provide more information as it becomes available.