SAULT STE MARIE, ON –/COMMUNITYWIRE/– The workers who dug Sault Ste Marie out of huge Christmas holiday snowstorms have voted to strike, if necessary, to get a wage increase they need to receive for their families to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of living and the city needs to provide to retain and recruit employees.
On January 4, Sault public works employees voted 100% in favour of taking strike action.
“Throughout the storms, nothing in the Sault had to shut down and this is because of the labour of CUPE workers who are this city’s winter crews,” said Marco Niro, president of CUPE Local 3. “Snow removal crews really went above and beyond, even being as short-staffed as we are.”
“We removed snow from 24,000 kilometres of roads within a four-day period – the same distance as traveling to and from Key West, Florida four times – plowing roads and sidewalks to make sure people could get where they need to go,” Niro confirmed. “Even now, snow removal is happening 24 hours per day, seven days a week so city streets can be opened up to their normal size.”
The current collective agreement for these workers expires on January 31 and their bargaining committee filed for conciliation on January 3. This means the Ministry of Labour will appoint a conciliation officer to meet with the workers’ bargaining committee and city management to attempt to help the two parties reach a collective agreement.
“In each of the last four years, city workers only had a pay increase of two per cent or less,” concluded Niro. “With inflation reaching eight per cent at times last year, most of the wage increases we got have already been eaten away, meaning my coworkers and I are no further ahead than we were in 2019 while the cost of basics – like food and filling up the gas tank – have gone way up since then.”
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3 unites 185 municipal workers who have organized themselves into two bargaining units: community services and public works. CUPE Local 3 members include City of Sault Ste Marie road repair workers, street cleaners, snowplow operators, gardeners, labourers, arborists, facility operators, carpenters, electricians, welders, mechanics, masonry workers, pipelayers, heavy equipment operators, janitors, garbage truck drivers, and hazardous waste depot staff.