REPORTING · 2nd May 2015
Kitimat Council saw a presentation from Virgil Vales on Monday, April 20th. He wished to present on the topic of Kitimat History.
“It is with a heavy heart that I come here,” said Vales. “When I first started, I started 30 years ago in Kitimat. It has been a pleasure to serve this community which I love. At times, it has not been my pleasure working under certain administrators.”
Vales told there have been a lot of problems in the District which the public is becoming aware of. He argued when a person has been in a position for a long time, they lose their humility and power corrupts.
He expressed he was a former union president and he only took the job because of one issue.
“There was an issue which tore apart the public works yard. An issue that even you became involved with to a certain degree Mario. You and three other councillors at the time forced a harassment policy on administration at that time. By the time it was all said and done, a 21 year female employee was pushed out the door. A supervisor, a great man, a human man with lots of humility, he was eventually forced out the door. The person in question eventually got demoted and pushed out the door but for the wrong reasons, not for the reasons at that time. My career was sacrificed also,” said Vales.
He explained there has been a culture of silence in Kitimat and reminded Council the workers are also citizens and tax payers. Vales argued he should have a say in the community.
Vales reminded Council both he and Phil Germuth, prior to running for Mayor, would address Council on issues which were important to them. He stated the two of them were partly responsible for the eroding of the democratic process in Kitimat. He suggested reinstating presentations by members of the public who are not on the agenda because the agenda is difficult to get on to.
He told Council there was no accountability at the end of the day. Vales expressed when he tried to meet with the CAO concerning harassment in the workplace, he was turned away. He said there were supposed to be people who were in some way related to unions on the Council, but they were not doing anything.
“Virgle, you know, we know that there are problems at the District, we know things haven’t been perfect. All I can tell you is that once this labour dispute is over, we are absolutely committed to making that relationship better. I know it’s not going to happen overnight but I can guarantee by the time the next collective agreement comes up, you’re going to be able to say that we made a difference, I give you my word on that,” said Mayor Phil Germuth.
Vales accused Germuth of slapping the union in the face at a past meeting. Vales claimed he did not vote for anyone on Council, and he regrets not voting for Councillor Claire Rattee. He stated the Councillors who sit at the table for too long lose their humility and compassion.
“People are tired, people want change. People demand respect and dignity in the workplace. You said to us the other day, you literally blasted us like we have no value,” said Vales. “What you said the other day, from a prepared statement, really offended us. You hurt us really badly and we’ve lost a lot of respect for this Council, and particularly you Phil.”
He told the Council they cannot fix the problems when the house is burning around them. Germuth replied that the comments were not intended to offend the workers, and apologized if they did.
“We have had frustrations with the way that negotiations went but everybody up here and our staff, we value our employees, we’re proud of the work they do, we think we have a great workforce. Negotiations haven’t gone the way we want but I was in no way trying to offend any of our municipal workers. If it came out that way, I apologize but I was not trying to offend them,” said Germuth.
During Vales presentation, he explained that a statement which had been made by Councillor Feldhoff previously was incorrect. The District used to have two men in each blower and one man moving in front of each blower to ensure there was nothing in the way of the blower. They also used to have four routes but decreased the number. This means it takes longer to clean the streets.
In response to Council’s questions, he told them there were 4 District Workers operating machinery during February's snow storm. He told the Council they operated the machines with little sleep, longer then they should have because there was no one to take their place.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked Vales if he was speaking on behalf of the union. Vales replied he was not, and they have no idea he was there. Feldhoff reminded him he was an employee and there was a protocol to follow.
Comment by kitimat first on 3rd May 2015
mr vales, never be ashamed to voice what you deem right, you have virtues which we'd expect our politicians and managers to have, but your courage and honesty are taxpayer appreciated and welcomed.
Comment by morganhorse on 2nd May 2015
Be proud that you stood up and spoke. That it seemed to fall on deaf ears is not your responsibility...at least you spoke your piece.
This strike has opened many eyes to the real character of those on Council and our Mayor. I have been so disappointed with this whole process and the seeming lack of empathy showed by those we voted in to represent us.
I fully support your fight for decent and fair treatment in the workplace, and am truly sorry that you, and your fellow workers have to continue this fight while those who developed the toxic environment sleep easy and continue getting paid.