Picket lines have gone up and more than 230 Cornwall city workers have commenced strike action this morning after CUPE and the City of Cornwall failed to reach an agreement in contract negotiations.
Paramedics, outside workers, and library workers are now on strike. “It certainly didn’t need to come to this,” said Amanda Palieps, president of paramedic local CUPE 5734, “but the City walked away from us on Tuesday afternoon and we didn’t see them or hear from them at all on Wednesday. We needed to be talking to hammer out a deal. It takes dialogue to bargain. Their absence tells us they were not serious about avoiding a strike.”
Main issues in dispute include concessions sought by the City, and wages remain outstanding as well.
Inside workers, represented by CUPE local 3251, have a strike deadline of May 23rd at 12:01 a.m. Should they join their co-workers on the picket line next week, an additional 150 or so workers will be off the job.
“The City made what they called a “final offer” on Tuesday,” said Alison Denis, CUPE National Representative. “Whatever they choose to call it, it contained all the same problems that yielded a 93% strike vote two months ago. Our members gave us a resounding direction with that strike vote. We’re very willing to try and find a resolution that works for both parties. But that would require the City to be here, actually bargaining. That is how this strike will get resolved.”
“Every time CUPE members answer an ambulance call, repair a water main, fill a pothole, or help a student find the right book at the library, they are choosing Cornwall,” said Kelly McKeegan, president of Local 234 (outside workers). “They love serving the community of Cornwall. But it’s going to take work to find the deal that will end this strike. We’re ready to do the work. Where’s the City?”
Paramedics’ right to strike is partially limited by an essential services agreement between the parties, which is a requirement of the Ambulance Services Collective Bargaining Act. Under the agreement signed between CUPE and the City of Cornwall, this means that only three cars of the regular complement of nine are on the road now that strike action has started.
The workers have been without a contract since 2015 (in the case of the library) and 2016 (in the case of the others).
Members of CUPE Local 1792, who work at long-term care home Glen Stor Dun Lodge, have also reached an impasse in their negotiations, but as they do not have the right to strike, their issues will be resolved by interest arbitration.