Unionized employees of the Town of Hawkesbury are not pleased about a couple of decisions recently made by council.

During the lunch hour on Friday, May 31, approximately 25 members of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1026 picketed outside Hawkesbury Town Hall demanding that negotiations between the union and town administration resume and that it be more receptive to demands for a salary increase for the workers.

The previous agreement between the town and CUPE 1026 expired on March 31, 2018.

On May 27, a 25 per cent salary increase for Mayor Paula Assaly was approved.  Council also approved a 1.5 per cent salary increase for non-unionized employees.

The mayor’s annual remuneration is going from $36,329.02 to $$45,411., retroactive to December 1, 2018.  The reasons given for raising the mayor’s salary are increased responsibilities due to there no longer being a secretary for the mayor’s office, and that the remuneration amount was the lowest in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell.

CUPE 1026 President Alain Larocque said negotiations with the town for a new contract have stalled.  The process began in July 2018 and the last meeting was in April.

“They say we’re a poor town but they gave the mayor 25 per cent,” said Larocque.

Larocque said the town administration offered a 1.5 per cent increase for the 62 CUPE members but requested they make concessions return.

Those concessions included giving up 20 hours of the 80 hours each employee can accumulate each year in additional pay or time off due to overtime.

Larocque said the town would not agree to union demands for improvements to other benefits either.

According to Larocque, the membership rejected the town’s last offer by 93 per cent and voted 100 per cent in favour of a strike.

However, when or if there is a strike or lockout depends on further progress in negotiations.

“Good for her, she got 25 per cent, she’s comparing it to other municipalities,” Larocque said in about the mayor’s increase.

“We’ve got to be able to do the same thing to be fair,” he added, in reference to obtaining an increase for union members.

Larocque said the response from town administration will depend on if further demonstrations are held.

Photo: James Morgan