What Are You Talking About?

UPDATE: Council met on August 23 and revealed that the second of these meetings involved the awarding of the food and beverage contract at the Miner’s Forum. It went to Scott Morrison, who owns Sydney’s Flavor Downtown, Flavor 19 and Flavor on the Water. (Although Morrison wasn’t mentioned by name; in fine, secretive tradition, council referred only to his numbered company. *Sigh*)

 

Tomorrow (Thursday, August 11), CBRM council will hold two in camera sessions:

CBRM meetings list August 2022

 

In case you don’t have your pocket copy of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) to hand, let me remind you that Section 22 deals with open meetings and exceptions and 22 2 (d) and 22 2 (e) are matters council may meet in camera to discuss, namely:

(d) labour relations;
(e) contract negotiations

There are those who believe public sector contracts should be negotiated in public on the grounds that it is the “taxpayer” who must ultimately make good on them, but I’m not entirely convinced by these arguments, partly because the use of the word “taxpayer” always sets my teeth on edge. The municipality negotiating employee contracts behind closed doors is not something that bothers me the way, say, the municipality negotiating port promoter contracts behind closed doors does.

But that said, the CBRM’s insistence on shrouding such discussions in an extra, entirely unnecessary layer of secrecy, drives me nuts.

 

Collective agreement

These meetings scheduled for Thursday must surely be related to negotiations with the CBRM’s inside workers, who voted on July 26 in favor of “pressure tactics up to and including strike action.

The roughly 140 workers, members of Local 933 of the Canadian Union of Public Sector Employees (CUPE), are employed with “Transit Cape Breton, 911 and 311 Regional Emergency Communication Centres, Police Services, the Civic Works Centre, the Engineering and Public Works Department, the Sydney lockup, CBRM Water Utility, the Solid Waste Management Department, and facilities such as the Centre 200 and County arenas.”

Their last collective agreement expired on 31 October 2021 and talks on a new one broke down in May 2022 amid calls, from the union, for conciliation.

National CUPE representative Tammy Martin told the CBC the main sticking points were “wages, benefits and time off.”

“It’s not just all about the money, especially in this new world we find ourselves in,” she said. “We’re trying to find the proper work-life balance.”

A conciliator was brought in but to no apparent avail.

After the July 26 strike vote, CUPE 933 President Daniel Colbourne said in a statement:

We had the largest turnout of members at the meeting that we’ve seen in years. We hope this strike vote sends a clear message that CUPE 933 members are determined to get a fair deal and that they support their bargaining committee.

Martin added:

We’re very disappointed that, even with the assistance of a conciliation officer, we were unable to reach a deal. Some of the outstanding issues include wages, bereavement leave, and parental/adoption leave, and wage parity.

The union declared itself willing to “go back to the table at any time to bargain a fair collective agreement.”

“No one ever want to go on strike, but our members feel they have been left with no other option,” says Colbourne. “Our members are now preparing for potential job action, while trying to remain hopeful that a fair deal can be reached soon.”

My point is, there is nothing preventing the CBRM from stating in its meeting announcement that it will be negotiating with its inside workers’ union during Thursday’s in camera sessions. And if it’s not negotiating with its inside workers, there’s nothing stopping it from stating who it is negotiating with.

It would be a very small step toward greater transparency, but a welcome one.

Featured image: CBRM Council Chambers, 2017 by WayeMason CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons