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REPORTING · 3rd March 2015
Walter McFarlane
The Kitimat City Council Chambers were behind a picket line on Monday, March 2nd. During the meeting, the picketers marched in. When Mayor Phil Germuth called for additional presentations, the Union Representatives, Martin McIlwrath and an associate stepped forward to present to Council.

“When we met throughout this last week in bargaining, trying to avoid a labour dispute, we basically came up with our offer to settle on Wednesday to the District, Administration had come out with theirs the Monday previous. When we went through theirs, we tried to adopt as much language as we could to present which we thought would be something which could resolve all the issues in the work place. It is a very poisonous work environment that exists there, contrary to the statements that the Mayor had made in the public recently,” said McIlwrath.

He explained to Council he was given a final offer and the offer does not compensate for what they are asking for and does not deal with the work environment. He stated the incumbent Councillors would be aware of the issues. To change things, they brought in a new Municipal Manager. However, they feel nothing has changed.

He said they were willing to extend the olive branch to negotiate for a deal so they would not have to walk off the job.

“Instead, you went to the media, and began individually emailing our members trying to promote a deal, your final offer, trying to make it sound like the best offer ever made. Perhaps trying to cause a mutiny or something in our union. All you did was anger our members because these are their issues. They are not my issues, they are not the bargaining committee’s issues, these are our membership’s issues,” said McIlwrath.

He said they want to get back to the bargaining table. The Mayor and Council was asked how aware they are about the union’s demand’s package. McIlwrath told them the Mayor quoted the wrong wage package in an interview Germuth did earlier on the 2nd of March.

McIlwrath stated the current relationship between the union and the district has no respect in it. They want to forge relationship with mutual respect. He pointed out they spent 2 months in bargaining trying to explain why the issues are at the table.

“What we get back is: ‘It’s working for us, it’s working for us.’ Well, it isn’t working for us,” said McIlwrath. “You have over 100 people here who are willing to walk off the job because of the issues that exist in the workplace.”

He asked the District to come back to the table and asked the Mayor and Council to come to the table because the way it is being rationalized, he feared they will never be able to reach an agreement.

He told Council they want solid language in the contract to deal with their issues. They cannot live on trust because nothing has changed with the new municipal managers.

“We feel we made a fair final offer,” said Mayor Phil Germuth. “We are willing to work through the terms of a collective agreement to address all the issues that could not be addressed immediately. We stand behind our administration and our bargaining committee. We gave them full direction. We know what we are putting out there and we trust that we have put out facts and we are going to stand out for now.”

McIlwrath stated Germuth had put out the wrong information about the wages on the CBC, that the lowest person in the pay scale would have to receive a 15% increase in pay. This wage demand was dropped. Everyone would come up proportionally to where they are now, moving up in a sliding scale together. It would be 6%-8% over two years.

He told Council their budget plans were a wish list for themselves and the town has over 54 million dollars in the reserves, including property. Germuth expressed the number was wrong, but McIlwrath replied they had an economist take a look at the figures and this is how much money there is. They promised the numbers.

The associate asked Council to listen to the message which was presented. The union wants change because they do not trust the District but they want to. They want a legal document to ensure people are on their best behavior. The document covers each group’s responsibilities equally as it is supposed to be a collective agreement towards providing a public service.

“We do not appreciate when the employer makes a public expression that the employer is offering this. You offered us nothing, we offered you everything. You take our language, you dissect it, you adulterate it and you give it back to us in a way that we do not recognize it,” he said. “We do not ask you to thank us but we do expect you to respect us.”

They sat down to thunderous applause from the members in the gallery. McIlrath expressed they will be on strike until these issues have been dealt with.
Stop Misleading and listen more!
Comment by Cliff Madsen on 5th March 2015
I think Mr/Mrs Cryiff might need to listen more carefully. The fact is that the DOK does have 54 million in cash and assets exactly as stated by the Union to Council on Monday.
Council followed the next day by publishing these exact figures in the paper and in doing so confirmed exactly what they were told by the Union.
Fortunately you can find this exchange on-line and listen for yourself again if you have any doubts what was said.
What`s really interesting is the way the Mayor and Council challenged the figures only to publicly confirm them the next day.
The DOK`s financial reports, which are also on-line for you to read, are an easily accessed resource you should have a look at before trying to dis-credit the Union`s spokeperson on this point.
enough already
Comment by J.Cryijff on 4th March 2015
Councillors being booed for crossing an illegal picket line, whereupon the picketers crossed their own line to whine to the councillors that had the guts to attend. Shame on the cowards that refused to cross the picket line. You were elected to serve to citizens of this District .
As for the strikers, if their spokesman cannot even read a financial statement, than good luck with negotiations.
The best the District can do is take the final offer off the table and offer mediation or binding arbitration.
to all
Comment by Rob on 3rd March 2015
When negotiating a binding labor agreement both parties have their structured demands and talking points. This is shared with the other party, and the dialogue is started to expand on the demands. This produces clarifications and understanding of the issues that both side face in representing their side as a whole.
As the negotiating runs its course these gains and clarifications are written up as the process continues. Then these gains are given a value in respect to ones total expected outcome. At times these gains are put back on the table in hopes of achieving a higher valued goal. That’s called negotiating which must be kept behind closed doors, so that both parties have the room to move if called upon.
So as a show of good faith by both parties a ban on bulletins that show demand outcomes are put in place at the start of negotiations. Updates on progress or always given but little on the final language, again to allow both parties to negotiate. So by giving out information to the public, this part of negotiating are lost!
Comment by Vern on 3rd March 2015
The people of Kitimat as taxpayers have a stake in this. Would both sides be willing to list what they are offering and/or demanding and the impact on our town. I do not mind a small increase in tax to provide needed services but speaking as a retired person the increase needs to be small.
Comment by Jim on 3rd March 2015
The unions always said its not all about the money its about the caustic relations with the district and
disrespect yet at the table at the council meeting the whole presentation revolved around the money does "respect" also mean we want more money. although they occasionally mention other outstanding issues they still don't tell us what they are. They won't discuss these issues in the media and would prefer to have them kept secret only between them and the city in a effort to get a backroom deal signed and sealed only then will we be able to see them to see how screwed we got.
I have total respect for council and mayor for standing their ground telling us they represent all of the voters in the city and are mind full of the cities finances. . The union deserves a fair compensation and respect but if you are to believe
previous statements they are already among the highest compensated in the province and still feel they deserve much more than other municipalities have recently settled for. Perhaps they should have waited until the next contract with their demands when their may be more tax revenue from LNG projects etc and the city could afford it better.
Comment by MP on 3rd March 2015
Besides everything else, I have not heard what either side is proposing for wage increases. I would like to know.