City of Edmonton workers ready to strike, as union calls latest offer ‘insulting’

The union representing city employees like 911 operators, bylaw officers and library workers says it’s ready to go on strike at any time if a deal can’t be reached.

Facilities like recreation centres could close with 72 hours’ notice if the Civic Service Union (CSU 52) strikes.

“Rec centres, libraries, there isn’t a single piece of business the city does that my members don’t support or impact in one way or another,” said Lanny Chudyk, president of CSU 52.

Chudyk says the union does “not want to disrupt front-line service.” The dedicated accessible transit service, for instance, will continue regardless of a strike.

But a looming strike does brings into question whether 911 operators could be exempt if the province declared them essential workers. The province, however, can’t do anything without changing the law.

“Essential service provisions in the Labour Relations Code do not apply to municipalities,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Trade told CityNews in an emailed statement. “However, the parties may enter into an informal essential service agreement to maintain services.

The province has appointed mediators “to help the two sides reach agreements.”

“Alberta’s government encourages both parties to continue working towards agreements that ensure there are no disruptions to services for Edmonton residents,” the Ministry wrote.

This past weekend, CSU 52 members voted 91 per cent in favour of supporting a strike mandate. The workers have gone five years without a wage increase.

RELATED: City employees’ union holds strike vote

Chudyk says the recent financial downturn has hit members hard.

“We’re not asking for the moon here,” he said. “What we’re asking for is pretty low ball considering we’ve come through COVID, high inflation rates, interest that has gone up. I have members who are accessing the foodbank because their rent has gone up so much.”

The union calls the city’s most recent five-year offer “insulting.”

The city disagrees, describing its latest offer “fair and equitable,” saying it includes wage increases and a commitment to hybrid work.

“The city is disappointed in the results of CSU 52’s strike vote,” said Michelle Plouffe with the City of Edmonton in a statement.

“The city will continue with its application to the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) to conduct an employer proposal vote that will ensure every eligible union member can vote directly on the city’s offer. The city is working with the ALRB on this application and anticipates that the vote date window will be confirmed shortly.

“The city’s goal continues to be to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable for members, the city and taxpayers and minimizes any impact to Edmontonians in the process. We also respect employees’ right to vote and will be encouraging members to use that right during the upcoming direct vote on the city’s offer.”

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