Union, Town of Sackville relieved to reach agreement after year-and-a-half without contract

New six-year contract provides wage increases, maintains seniority provisions

Published on May 18, 2017

Town of Sackville

SACKVILLE, N.B. – After more than a year of negotiations, union workers with the town of Sackville finally have a new contract in place, bringing an end to months of labour unrest within the municipality.

Sackville’s chief administrative officer Phil Handrahan said he is confident both parties have reached an agreement that is fair and is pleased a settlement could be reached at the bargaining table.

It’s good news for everybody all around. Labour unrest is never good for anyone.

Sackville CAO Phil Handrahan

“It’s good news for everybody all around,” said Handrahan. “Labour unrest is never good for anyone.”

A tentative agreement was reached earlier this month following a meeting with a provincially-appointed mediator. The agreement has subsequently been given approval by the union members and town council.

“I think people are relieved, from our side of things,” said Marcos Salib, the CUPE national representative heading up the negotiations for the local union. “We’re relieved because we don’t have to go on strike, we’re not going to be locked out . . . we can now move forward and things can get back to normal.”

The six-year contract, which covers the period from Jan. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2021, provides the union workers with a general wage increase of eight per cent over that six-year term (1 per cent in 2016, 1 per cent in 2017, 1 per cent in 2018, 1.5 per cent in 2019, 1.5 per cent in 2020, and 2 per cent in 2021).

Salib said concessions were made so that CUPE Local 1188, which represents 35 full- and part-time unionized inside and outside workers, could keep a seniority clause in their contract that ensures seniority is recognized when temporary and casual workers apply for a permanent position with the town.

Although originally offered a five-year contract with wage increases of 8.5 per cent, Salib said the union members agreed to take less, settling for eight per cent over six years, in order to get the seniority issue off the table.

“It was a fundamental issue for us,” he said. “I think this just shows that it wasn’t about the money, it was always about seniority.”

Salib said he’s not sure why the town finally agreed to leave the seniority provisions alone, but credits its negotiating team for coming to a resolution on the issue.

“I think they realized we weren’t going to back down on that . . . it wasn’t going to go away.”

Also among the highlights of the agreement, some workers will receive incremental wage adjustments to bring them up to pay levels in comparable jobs. In addition, the new contract also provides for other increases on such provisions as clothing and tool allowances.

Handrahan said he believes the new agreement is a “good economic package” that will provide a fair wage to town employees while still being affordable for the taxpayers.

The town and CUPE Local 1188, which has been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2015, have been in talks for more than a year and met more than a dozen times since last February in an attempt to reach an agreement, including meeting with a provincially-appointed conciliator three times after negotiations stalled.

Mayor John Higham acknowledged that labour negotiations can sometimes be a long and tough process, so “it’s nice to be able to bring it to a close.”