After contract talks break down, Westmount blue collars launch general strike – Montreal | Canadian

On the island of Montreal, Westmount’s 124 blue-collar workers walked off the job Thursday morning after contract negotiations broke down, prompting the start of a general, unlimited workers strike.

“We are increasing the pressure, that is why we are on a general strike right now,” said blue-collar union spokesman Guillaume Dupont Croteau. “We will see by the day if Mayor (Christina) Smith can send back an answer to our offer.”

Dupont Croteau said the union and the city of Westmount last had a negotiating session on June 12. He claims the union submitted an offer to the city, but had not heard back in 10 days, which prompted the decision to launch a general strike.

Mayor Smith said the city respects the union’s right to strike. But she said the city has never walked away from the negotiating table, has never cancelled a meeting and is waiting for the union to return to the table to get a deal signed.

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“I think the best way to get a deal that is fair for employees and that is fair for the residents of Westmount is to get back to the negotiating table,” Smith said. “The city is willing ready and able to sit down as long as it takes to get that deal signed.”

Neither side would go into any details about the finer points of the contract negotiations. But the union complained that the city offer – when taking into account inflation and cost of living increases – would see less in their pockets than they were making in 2019.

“Is it fair to get poorer? That is the question we are answering right now. It’s not fair to get poorer,” Dupont Croteau said.

Smith says the city’s offer is a generous one, compared to other cities on the island of Montreal. She says the city has conceded several points to the union, including formally recognizing them for the hard work they performed during COVID.

“I think the deal is very fair. If they show it to their membership and they look at comparing it to other cities I think the employees should realize it’s a very fair deal of what is available on the market right now,” Smith said. “Let’s be clear — I have a huge amount of respect for them, for the work they do. We believe the deal is fair and we believe the best way to solve this is back at the negotiation table.”

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The city says it was forced to cancel its upcoming St. Jean Baptiste and Canada Day parties because of the strike. It says park maintenance including lawn mowing will be affected by the job action, as will garden upkeep in Westmount’s commercial districts.

Management is now working seven days a week to keep the municipal pool and recreation centre open. They are also keeping the library open. Garbage, compost and recycling are done by outside firms and won’t be affected.

Negotiations in Westmount are being closely watched by other cities, as many are also set to start or finalize contract negotiations.

The City of L’Assomption and its workers signed a new contract this week. The five-year deal will see a four-day work week for its blue collars, flexible working hours, and a salary increase of 17.5 per cent over five years.

Smith is aware of the responsibility of negotiating a fair deal for all.

“We are the stewards of taxpayer money. We have to make sure we sign a deal that is within the market,” she said.

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