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REPORTING · 8th April 2015
Walter McFarlane
Updated with photos

On April 7th, Kitimat City Council approved the appendix for their provisional budget for 2015. On the first page is the mission statement for the Municipality: ”To facilitate a high quality of community life for citizens of all ages.” and. “To provide the highest quality municipal services at the lowest possible cost.”

Earlier that day, the striking unionized workers of the District of Kitimat rallied outside City Centre Mall. With the RCMP directing traffic, they marched from the upper level of the Kitimat Mall down to Lahakas Boulevard to the Kitimat Council Chambers where they waited outside.

Mayor Germuth was the first to arrive. He was followed shortly after by the District of Kitimat Administration who all entered the college where the meeting was held at the same time. Councillor’s Claire Rattee and Rob Goffinet also approached Council from the front. We were informed the other Councillors used a rear entrance.

The workers packed themselves into the Council Chambers. It was standing room only. When the time came, the union business agent, Martin McIllwrath and several union members got up to address Council.

He asked: “Why, on February 25th, when our union provided the Municipal Manager an offer to settle, with the statement that we were willing to keep working and not have to withdraw our services, our workers would not have to withdraw their services, why was that not communicated to Council until March 16th?”

McIllwrath expressed both Council and the Municipal Manager have told the media they saw the package the union laid out. He was informed Council never saw the offer to settle until the 16th of March. He informed Council three Councillors told had him they never saw the offer to settle and one of them informed him they did not see the original package during one on one meetings.

“The unions claim that that settlement was hidden from Council was not true at all. On February the 25th, our negotiating committee met with you. You guys closed your meeting sometime around noon. At 5:30 that evening, Council had a special meeting and met. At that meeting, all the changes, all the updates that were in your offer to settle were given to us. We were fully addressed at that meeting of what they were. Did anyone on Council actually look at the whole document? No, we didn’t ask for it. We asked: ‘give us an update.’ So there was a misunderstanding there,” said Mayor Phil Germuth.

He expressed he called all the Councillors and the Council agrees, they were updated at the meeting on what the unions settlement offer was.

According to email correspondence we at the Kitimat Daily had with Warren Waycheshen last week, the closed meeting in question, which was discussed in both the media and in Council, took place on Sunday, February 22nd, 3 days prior to the day the union delivered their offer to settle.

Germuth stated the staff had updated the Council on what the changes were to the 50 page document. McIllwrath asked if vetting the offer was a part of the Council’s responsibility. He expressed his belief that Council received the update from people he doubted understood it.

“How can you take responsibility for bargaining when you didn’t look at our offer to settle?” asked McIllwrath.

Germuth expressed the offer was looked at and they were updated by staff. Arguing ensued over contradictions in statements made in Council so far and Councillor Mary Murphy called for a point of order.

The union representatives loaded up a laptop and began to brief Council on several of the outstanding changes in the offer to settle to get Council’s rational of why they are opposed. They were reminded this time is not dedicated to questions and answers.

McIllwrath explained they wanted honesty, integrity and trust in their relationship and in their contract language but this was rejected by the District. The union wanted to know why.

When the request was refused, it triggered an outburst from the union members in the gallery. Murphy sang out another ‘point of order’ but another Councillor was about to speak.

“Council provides direction to our negotiating committee and sets its parameters. Council is not the bargaining group,” said Councillor Mario Feldhoff.

He was told to direct the negotiating team back to the table and was asked if he was really the Mayor of Kitimat by the members in the Gallery.

“All of us got elected in a few months ago. You may not like it. But in the meantime, we have a negotiating committee, we have a procedure to follow and it’s not my intention to listen all night long to you going through 80 items,” said Feldhoff.

He was told there were only 33 items.

Germuth gave the union extra time. McIllwrath expressed it was negligence in the Council Chambers which is why the union is on their 6th week of a strike.

“For clarification, it was the union who decided to go on strike. We did not force a strike,” said Germuth.

The union expressed one of the issues which they wanted addressed concerned contracting out. They wanted protection for employees who were receiving less work, demotion or layoffs because their jobs were contracted out.

McIllwrath explained the full section to Council. He expressed services are eroding because they are being contracted out and a sign of this was the recent snow storm. McIllwrath told Council, in February’s snow storm, the District had neither the equipment nor the manpower to keep up with the snow removal.

There has been a reduction in positions throughout the District of Kitimat despite the new infrastructure and aging infrastructure. He told Council the amount of workers has dwindled and cannot keep up with Kitimat’s needs.

Council was informed of all of the work which was contracted out, one job title at a time. In some cases, they were informed there was a union worker who could do the job. In other cases, they were told the union worker had to come in after and fix a mistake by the contractor.

Mayor and Council was asked witness what was happening at the bargaining table. Murphy stated this needed to be a two way street. McIllwrath agreed.

“Last Friday we threw them out of our building and not so politely,” said McIllwrath. “When we spend all of the work putting together an offer to settle that we think is a great offer to settle. We withdrew a number of demands, we restructured our demands, we did what we could to resolve the issues and still provide both sides with some comfort. […] On the Friday which would be three days later, the District Administration responds, the Municipal Manager doesn’t come and they came back with two items.”

He explained in this case, the District representatives could not decide if they had a mandate not to negotiate the other items or just did not prepare to negotiate them. For this, the District negotiators were told to get out of the building.

McIllwrath suggested government intervention or a town hall meeting where the public can hear both sides of the story and decide. He said there are items which the union wants negotiated which the District negotiating team are unwilling to discuss. He expressed he wants to bring a close to the labour dispute. He asked Council to get involved in the bargaining.

Germuth told him they will be discussing mediation later in a closed meeting. The Council is still standing behind the final offer which was put out on February 23rd. McIllwrath said union felt the final offer was garbage.

As the discussion began to get heated again, Murphy called for her third point of order. Germuth accused McIllwrath of not bringing the information from the negotiations to the union members and Gurmuth thanked him for the presentation.

McIllwrath asked Germuth to resign. Member of the gallery called for Mayor Germuth’s resignation and one person even called out to re-elect Former Mayor, Joanne Monaghan. Council was informed the union the union was disappointed from someone whom they advocated for. The union was informed their time was up.

The union reps were replaced by Unifor Local 2301 President Rick Belmont who also wished to present. “To get through a successful set of bargaining, it requires a lot of work. It’s not a case of saying no, it’s a process,” said Belmont.

He said the bargaining takes every minute they during three months of talking and meeting for eight hours a day. This was not what he was hearing coming out of the District of Kitimat strike. He has been following the union side and they have been working to get the District Bargaining team back to the table.

“It’s not about who has the bigger balls here. Let’s put that aside. We’re into a situation where there are 100 families without a paycheck for a number of weeks. That’s what it’s about. It’s about getting an agreement. We have failed at this point, your bargaining committee has failed you by it ending up in a strike,” said Belmont.

He the plant manager always comes into the bargaining, usually during the end. Belmont told Council they sit in a managerial position and what they are doing does not work. He asked the Mayor and Council to sit in on the debate.

Belmont talked about the videos which the union has put on their Facebook page. “These things that I see are on the table are about human things. They are about recognizing service,” said Belmont. “21 years and you’re still part time? These are real stories. These are real people. Can you imagine? Look at the dedication there for a part time job. Could you imagine what kind of dedication you’d have from one of those people if you were able to offer them full time employment?”

He said there seems to be a corporate mentality coming into the town. He told the Council they were not running a corporation, they were running a town with wages paid by taxpayers and he did not pay taxes to have people treated like that.

Belmont suggested that Council have a harassment policy or an anti-bullying policy.

Frank Mauro was next. He stated former Municipal Manger Trafford Hall made $163,000 in a year. The Current Municipal Manger, CAO Ron Poole makes $214,000. He said his taxes have gone up, but was told by the treasurer the District looked at how much he paid in taxes and it was not as much as he thought.

Council was asked to respond to the union’s statement. Mayor Germuth offered a statement, but only if the union was done speaking.

“Both sides, the Union and the District, need to take their share of responsibility for what’s happened in the past 30+ years. Mayor and Council met with the Union as a show of good faith and to hear from you what the issues are. We listened and gave staff direction on issues we wanted resolved, in large, the same issues expressed in recent videos,” said Germuth.

He went through the district’s offer. He said they are not ashamed of it and there has never been a collective agreement in the history of the District of Kitimat which did as much as this one did.

However, he also said the union has not addressed employee discontent in the past. He said there are not numerous complaints to the Workers Compensation Board for unsafe practices and there have been no complaints to the BC Human Rights Tribunal concerning the exploitation of women.

“Isn’t one of the reasons to belong to a union to have the union stand up for your rights when you, for whatever reason, are unable to do so yourself. What has the union been doing to represent our District workers for the last 30 years. As well, the opportunity has been there for three years for the union to meet with Council to discuss issues of importance. Wouldn’t a rational person think that issues of such magnitude would have earned a phone call to alert Council well in advance of the negotiations so every effort could have been made to avert a strike? Our workforce is not out on a picket line because of our offer, yet it’s a solid package meant to bring employees back to work,” said Germuth.

The Mayor had to shout to be heard over the voices from the back. He stated it would take longer than three months to solve all the problems. One of the items he expressed was not negotiable was having the wages similar to the money made by Rio Tinto Alcan Workers.

“We will not handcuff future Councils and taxpayers to wage increase out of our control. RTA is RTA,” said Germuth, fighting not to be drowned out by the cacophony in the gallery. “The District of Kitimat is the District of Kitimat. You cannot compare an industry to a municipality. If workers want RTA wages, we would be sorry to see them go; they would have to apply at RTA.”

However, he expressed the wages they are promising would put the District workers in the top two highest paid municipal workers in British Columbia.

He told them management would not be able to manage a lot of full time employees. He argued again the District of Kitimat did not hide the settlement offer which was presented by the union on the 25th from the Council. Germuth argued Council was kept up to date on the changes to the unions offer.

“In closing, I believe in my fellow Councillors, our administration and most importantly, our municipal workers and believe that we can work together for the betterment of Kitimat,” said Germuth.

CAO Ron Poole received congratulations for the Mayor’s speech from the gallery. The union wanted a final word but both Germuth and Murphy stated clearly that they were done.

“The only thing that you’ve guaranteed is this strike is not going to end with that statement. You guys should all resign. You’re killing this town, you’ve been killing it for 25 years,” shouted McIllrath at the top of his voice.

There was one final presenter, who told Council in prior negotiations, a member of District of Kitimat Administration had told them that: “Anybody who sticks their head out of the crowd will have it chopped off.”

“Those issues aren’t brought up because someone has threatened to cut off our heads,” he said.

As the District of Kitimat workers left, there were cries to Re-Elect Mayor Monaghan, Trish Parsons for Mayor and even a cry to elect a man who had walked with the union to the Council Meeting dressed in a mascot for a sugary beverage.

The union left. McIllrath expressed outside he felt the attitude of the Mayor was disgraceful. “This whole thing is crazy, that they’re not willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work and try and resolve these issues,” said McIllrath. “We’re going to continue to do everything we can to get a fair collective agreement for our members.”

He called for Germuth’s resignation and Poole’s job.

Germuth on the other hand expressed this was an exercise in the union’s free speech. “They have a right to express their opinions to us so we heard it. Do I agree with everything they said, absolutely not, but we gave them the opportunity to speak,” said Germuth. “We’re going to discuss the possibility, do we want to go to mediation or arbitration. There’s different ways to go.”
Mayor Germuth makes his statement
Mayor Germuth makes his statement
Unifor adresses Council
Unifor adresses Council
How many people can you count in this photo of City Council
How many people can you count in this photo of City Council
Comment by HB on 10th April 2015
So all these negative comentors that I see on here - do you really believe they are not coming from one area in particular, and are hiding behind your reasoning - give me a break!!
Comment by J. on 10th April 2015
I dont show decency to people such as yourself as I have seen how you bully people on Facebook.

No one will post a real name here because they have seen the behavior of your union which has picketed local establishments and even threatened to picket private homes and realize that the union is anything but decent its downright dangerous.
20 years a casual
Comment by H.B on 10th April 2015
"J" your ignorance is certainly obvious, have the decency to post your name, or at least your email, so I am able to respond to your comment!
are you listening
Comment by kitimat born and bred on 10th April 2015
Nobody is blaming Phil for 30 years of bullying, harrassment or anything else. What they are blaming him for is not negotiating with the DOK employees union. They should be sitting at the table ready to seriously negotiate and try to come to some resolution but they are NOT. Come on people how are they suppose to resolve anything when there is only communication on one side. DISTRICT MANAGEMENT GET BACK TO THE TABLE.
Comment by Joe on 10th April 2015
Hannah You wouldn't get that many candid opinions if everyone posted their full name
and with the district dispute wouldn't want to be looked down upon and harassed if their opinion
On the dispute didn't match the district employees views
20 Years Casual
Comment by J on 10th April 2015
Why would someone not seek out alternative employment after a decade of being an on call casual?

Maybe deep down they realize they are mediocre at the job and dont deserve a promotion so instead they blame administration for their lot in life.
RE: water cooler talk
Comment by Alex on 9th April 2015
Personally I know where you can get a high paying job in Management with that presumption.
Comment by Joe on 9th April 2015
No pg I think with all disrespectful union activists ranting and ravings at the last council meeting they have lost a lot of support evidenced in all the comments below
Union Reps meeting councillors in private
Comment by K on 9th April 2015
"McIllwrath expressed both Council and the Municipal Manager have told the media they saw the package the union laid out. He was informed Council never saw the offer to settle until the 16th of March. He informed Council three Councillors told had him they never saw the offer to settle and one of them informed him they did not see the original package during one on one meetings."

I would like to know which 3 members of council gave this information to the union and why these councillors didnt confirm this statement at the meeting.

Its not fair to make a statement like that and not reveal which 3 members made these claims outside of the negotiations since the public now have no way of verifying if its a true statement or not because as of now its hearsay.

I also believe that its either been stated or insinuated that union reps have met with city councillors at their homes.

I find this highly suspicious if this is in fact accurate as it leads one to wonder what is being said that is not able to be put on public record.

Kitimat Council should not be holding public discussions with members under there employment with the district because that opens a can of worms that can lead to
even more trouble such as a perceived bias or intimidation.

watercooler talk
Comment by PG on 9th April 2015
I am starting to suspect many of these responses are coming from the same person, either that or maybe these people hang out at the same water cooler, or even play bocce ball together lol. Personally I think when anger gets the better of someone it just shows they have nothing left, whats next? a fist fight? Cooler heads prevail, and in this case Philip.
to Appalled
Comment by Kudos on 9th April 2015
what you are describing sounds horrible. but that still makes me ask what the union has been doing for its members all this time? Were complaints taken to the City Manager? How about to Mayor and Council? Where was the outrage before now? it's easy to point fingers at one side, but if no one was speaking up on behalf of those who were bullied, of course it was going to continue. That's what a union is supposed to be for!

i don't think anyone will disagree that union or not, city workers deserve to be treated fairly in the work place without being bullied or harassed. but trying to sandwich those ideas in with absurd salary proposals is shady on the Union's part.

And Mayor and Council can't do jack about jack unless they are told about it.
Two sides
Comment by citizen on 9th April 2015
I am not for or against either side, they each have their own pros and cons. It is quite annoying having to deal with a strike in town that not only affects the unions jobs but people around them.
In my opinion Phil shouldn't be blamed for this since he just started (give the man a break ) there was many problems before that lead up to this ( for over 20 years)
I don't see why the taxpayers need to pay as much as we do while not having a say on where our money goes... I don't want my money to go to people like Ron Poole that get way overpaid or to union workers that are fighting for a lot more than they need to live off of. No one really needs to make more than $100 thousand a year unless they're a single parent of three even then people live off of less.
It is quite unfair how minimum wage workers still pay into the union for their wages, yet minimum wage workers make $10.25 and the lowest paying district job is $23 they all make more than double
minimum wage which shouldn't be allowed saying they want higher raises.
The answer to all there problems would be get a new job. If you can't handle your job complain before it gets big enough to become a strike. The other people shouldn't suffer for the stuff they strive for.
tax papers and community pride
Comment by kitimat born and bred on 9th April 2015
I for one am ashamed of district management, mayor and council. Tax payers should also be asking the question, why are we paying management such high wages. Why is every grievance going to arbitration, this too is costing taxpayers. instead of trying to come to some resolution first. Not surprising though since the DOK management, Mayor and Council are definetly not even trying to negotiate. The people of Kitimat should be outraged. I am not surprised that tempers flared i would imagine it would be very frustrating to try and bargain with egotistical and ignorant people. One hundred families are out on strike, dont you think that would have been important enough for the management, mayor and council to actually read the whole package that was given to them . Is it not their responsability to make sure they are well informed before making decisions for our community.
Kitimat should be standing with our union people.
Comment by A Concerned Person on 9th April 2015
Let it be known I'm not big on unions, but what people seem to be brushing off is that this is about human rights.
As an ex DOK employee who worked in city hall let me tell you what happens up there is NOT RIGHT! I was and watched others be harassed by staff members, and not by not being called for a casual position or being hired part time, I'm talking full on harassing and bully tactics were pulled by management. It was archaic and backwards and I was shocked. Especially since I had members of management come up to me to tell me what goes on was not right but there was nothing that could be done. Seriously shocking because everyone just seemed constantly stressed and upset but kept their mouth shut and that was just the environment that was accepted.
Now I'm a bit shocked the union hasn't brought up incidents like this because this is what truly is appalling about the district of Kitimat and those staff members who cause most of these issues are still in place. This is why I and many others have quit, moved out of town, found a new job, etc. And there have been many educated, hard working, great people the city has lost because of this.
So everyone in town should rally behind the union and help them fight for a better working environment instead of arguing with them go and talk to them and find out the bigger picture because trust me there is more to this story.
I voted in phil and I was frankly disgusted by his behaviour during this council meeting. He was speaking to the union members as if they were beneath him and you could tell he was not actually interested in listening. I think in order to be an effective leader you need to be able to remain calm, willing to discuss things rationally even when things are getting heated, and be willing to help to remedy the problem and I saw none of that.
So everyone please do yourself a favour and go talk to the workers, listen to the issues and find out how to support them as fellow humans who deserve the same rights as everyone.
in the meantime
Comment by Seriously Folks on 9th April 2015
Unifor2300 is being led down this path by Martin McIlwrath. No skin of his back, regardless of what happens. He doesn't have to live on strike pay....he collects his regular pay cheque from RTA, either directly or via Unifor 2301. I would suggest district workers reserve some of their faith in someone or something else.
Still waiting
Comment by Carlosroberto on 8th April 2015
The Kitimat Daily on March 1st published an article titled "The strike begins" containing the following:

"We asked for a breakdown to what the cost would be to the public. McIlwrath told us they are finalizing the cost break down and will release the information to the public soon."

Where is this information?

what gives
Comment by kitimat first on 8th April 2015

the DOK likes to compare workers hourly rates, why not show those same cities tax revenues ? if a city as small as kitimat has a larger tax base than say larger terrace' then why shouldn't we pay taxpayers who work for the city a high wage...where would all the money go otherwise ? how much was ron poole making in larger terrace and did he have an assistant and coming from terrace what really dose he know about snow removal from a town that gets half of what we do, and what they do get gets piled infront of your driveway ?
Comment by Jim on 8th April 2015
Thanks Phil and council for having the guts to stand up for taxpayers Everybody Including mayor and council I think want a resolution to
settle this dispute and appreciate our union workers but as Phil said they are already the second highest compensated in the province (4 dollars an hr difference between a kitimat laborer And a terrace city laborer ). Also the unions latest antics of parading district employees in front of cameras crying the blues how bad they have been treated some for over 20 years in a effort to get public sympathy is also weighing thin . they should be upset and take it out on their elected union reps for letting this happen for so long it's their job to take employees concerns to management and have them dealt with to a satisfactory conclusion where have they been all this time through many contracts. Now they try to cram 20 years of of misrepresenting their members into one contract this what's shamefull
Union members should be outraged. Its not Phils fault was happened in the past .He just got elected
and I think our mayor and council are doing a great job showing some concern for the budget and finances of taxpayers (iincluding district workers). I think they should look down the path
their leadership is taking them. LNG and all the tax dollars they would bring with them is not here yet . Perhaps next contract would be a better time
to stick it to them
The Union Is to blame
Comment by K on 8th April 2015
The union endorsed Phil and got him elected and expected him to be their "guy" and give them whatever they wanted.

In other words they wanted him to return the favor of being made Mayor.

Now they want him to resign and if he did then I ask who would the union endorse now since no one seems to be good enough for them.

Trafford Hall was let go and replaced with Ron Poole and now they want Poole to also resign.

Do you see a pattern here.

No matter who is elected or hired it is never good enough for this uni0n.

Comment by Amyjoy on 8th April 2015
I would just like to say that I am a tax payer.. I have listened to both sides of the negotiations,... And I am absolutely ashamed that our mayor is treating our workers So poorly . He is acting like these concerns are below him.
I have witnessed many ups in our town, these past 6 months have NOT been one of them... I used to have so much pride in our community .. Now I feel shame.
I have friends from down south and family from out of province who have been keeping tabs on our currency labour dispute, and even they are astonished with the mismanagement and poor verbal choices by our mayor..
Get over your pride mr mayor... Get back to the table. Actually listen to the concerns of your people.. And resolve these outstanding issues so the community can once again be proud.

Thank you Phil
Comment by Voter on 8th April 2015
Thank you Phil for standing up for regular (non-union) citizens of Kitimat. Most of the people that I know are on your side, so please don't let the self-entitled government union workers to bully you into a bad deal that will negatively impact the future generations of taxpayers.
Needed to be said.
Comment by Kudos on 8th April 2015
i didn't vote for Phil, and i don't always agree with him but he said what needed to be said about the Union owning its share of the blame for what has gone on the last however many years, and that any links to Alcan wages should absolutely not be in a collective agreement. Linking municipal wages to a private enterprise is a ridiculous idea that would have me seeing red as a tax payer.
Dear Citizen of Kitimat
Comment by morganhorse on 8th April 2015
I too am a citizen of this community, and have been for over 45 years. I have seen many Councils and Mayors, and many, many Union workers. I admit I am I credit Unions for a great many of the benefits I see in my working life.

We would have very little rights as working citizens if unions hadn't fought for them.

I also am pro-human, and feel that we should all be crying out as loudly as Mr. McIlwrath in outrage over the treatment of our district employees. If you cannot take time out to talk to those walking the picket lines, fine. You are not required to.

I chose to, and I am so outraged at the treatment that I will never be able to say "Good job, Phil," and still have a moral compass worth anything.

A good job would be LISTENING. A good job would be BARGAINING. A good job would be UNDERSTANDING there is so much at stake people walked off the job.

I walk with them...and am proud to do so.
Agreed Such Children
Comment by K on 8th April 2015
I viewed last nights meeting and this union should be ashamed.

They claim to want to curtail harassment in the workplace and yet had no problem hurling profanities on live television and insinuating they would picket the homes and even businesses of elected officials. going on private non district property amounts to a crime and if done they should have the police called on them.

They have gone too far.
Such Children
Comment by Citizen of Kitimat on 8th April 2015
From reading this the only thing I can see is how childish the Union is being. Such cries and greed of not getting there way. Do not get me wrong I absolutely love our workers and all that they do but Mr. McIllrath is acting extremely childish. He needs to calm down and start dealing with this like an adult. He is allowing too much emotion get into the way of negotiating. It seems to me that deep inside he wants this to go on because he enjoys arguing and creating a big scene in attempt for better self publicity.

Hang in there Phil, you are holding yourself well and dealing with this properly. I congratulate you in being able to remain calm and keep a clear head. You are doing what Kitimat voted you in for and that representing everyone in Kitimat, not just the District Workers.
Not surprised by Phil
Comment by bill on 8th April 2015
The people who know Phil and have the had the opportunity to experience his egotistical attitude knew full well he could not man the ship. Not surprised, the union should have done their homework before endorsing a radical like Phil.
Go for Arbitration!
Comment by Jon on 8th April 2015
Go for arbitration and what a surprise you will get.
Vince Ready would bring an awakening to the Union leaders.,

Kitimat is a town not a multinational corporation.

Are the ones with the loudest voices still drawing their Union wages?