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City union votes in favour of deal with administration

The city union has approved a deal proposed by the municipal government.

In an effort to balance the 2017 budget, the City of Lloydminster has been looking to implement multiple cost-saving methods, which included a pair of changes brought to the local branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

The current collective agreement between the union and the City was approved after quick negotiations in March of 2015, and is in place until 2018. Under the deal, union workers had a wage increase of three per cent in 2015, with further raises of 2.75 per cent set for 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Two changes were being sought, with first being the creation of a “Summer Student” salary band. In 2017, workers in the salary band would be paid $15.00 an hour, which would then increase by 2.75 per cent in 2018 to $15.41. The projected cost savings from the change are pegged at $225,000 per year.

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The second change, which is being put in place across all City workers, was the implementation of a mandatory five-day “deferred leave” per year in 2017-18. Under the deferred leave system, two per cent of employees pay would be held, to be used when the employee would be off on deferred leave, in a total of 25 pay periods.

An example of the leave system, included in the City presentation documents.
An example of the leave system, included in the City presentation documents.

The union voted on the changes on Thursday. According to Roxanne Shortt, the president of CUPE Local 1015, 78 per cent of union members were in favour of the move. Shortt also said the two scheduled pay increases will still take place.

“The pay will still reflect the increase that was negotiated,” said Shortt.

“We, however, will have a two per cent holdback, and take one week off additionally, with pay.”

Shortt indicated that she viewed the change as the purchase of an additional week’s vacation.

“They keep our two per cent, we get an extra week off,” said Shortt.

“It promotes a healthier work/life balance, for some, and we have a lot of young families that work for the city, so that, to them, would be a benefit, to spend more time with their families and pay less out of their pocket for daycare or child care of any type.”

Shortt said the next step from the vote would be the creation of a Letter of Understanding between the union and the City, which would lay out the “intricacies” of the agreement.

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“For instance, if someone wishes to not have that per cent moved off their pay, they can opt out of it,” said Shortt.

“There will be five days off without pay, at some point.”

Shortt also said that any returning summer students will be keeping the same wage rate as their previous stint of employment with the City, but new students would start at the new salary band, which would be the lowest rate of pay for City workers.

As for the possibility of layoffs, Shortt said that it was mentioned by the City administration as a possibility, in response to questions from union members. She also said that if the deal had been rejected by union membership, it would have meant the union and the City would have gone back to the negotiation table.

“It was said that we would have to start again from the beginning, and we would never just stop negotiations, because we always can have another offer,” said Shortt.

“They would have to go back to the table, and look at something, and find out how they’re going to be able to balance the budget. For us, it doesn’t matter how we got where we are, the fact is we are where we are, and I think it’s on all of us to be responsible to understand that, and do what we can to help lessen even the possibility of any layoffs.”

With the deal now approved, Shortt said she thought it was good for the community that the union and City administration could communicate openly about concerns, and that the union showed a commitment to the community, and to themselves, in approving the deal.

Comment from the City about the successful vote was not available by time of publication.

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