Mayor Brian Bigger is praising the new four-year deal reached between the City of Greater Sudbury and CUPE Local 4705.
The help of a conciliator from the Ministry of Labour was needed to reach a tentative agreement. Inside workers voted 91 per cent in favour of the deal, while outside workers voted only 62 per cent in favour.
The deal is retroactive to April 1, 2019, and runs until April 2023. Highlights of the deal include wage increases in all four years of the contract, on par or slightly lower than the provincial average of 1.7 per cent per year. It also includes enhancements to members' benefits package.
President Mike Bellerose said the biggest win for members is a big increase in mental health benefits. The city agreed to increasing the benefit by a factor of five for counselling and treatment of mental health issues.
When it comes to outside workers, there was a contentious issue that made for tough negotiations, Bellerose said, and it's related to snow removal.
City crews used to work eight-hour shifts, five days a week, meaning when they were called out to open roads on the weekend, they were paid overtime rates.
Contractors were also on standby at around $250/hour when called out.
In an effort to lower costs, the city is changing the shift from five days a week to seven, which would lessen the amount of overtime used and limit the need to hire expensive contractors.
So while costs will go down for taxpayers, the move impacts the quality of life for snow removal crews by having them work weekends while not compensating them extra in exchange, as has been standard practice since amalgamation.
This was a tough sell, Bellerose said.
"It will be a huge adjustment for our members — they value their time with their families, so it was very contentious," he said.
The mayor said he was pleased a deal had been reached.
“I, along with council and the City of Greater Sudbury, are very pleased that CUPE members have ratified the Collective Bargaining Agreements,” Bigger said in a statement. “We are confident that the agreements continue to improve services to residents, while meeting the needs of our employees. Thank you to our CUPE bargaining unit partners for working with us to continue the delivery of quality public service to residents in a financially sustainable, responsible manner. Thank you also to our team of negotiators for their hard work.”
In the same news release, the city highlighted various aspects of the new collective bargaining agreement:
• Improved delivery of winter road maintenance, better response to broken and frozen water mains, and more preventative maintenance through additional full-time staff. This results in a reduction of contracted services and overtime hours, and provides more reliable service to residents.
• Increased flexibility in work hour schedules in service areas such as roads, winter road maintenance, distribution and collection, construction services, transit and fleet, 311 and bylaw enforcement. This results in improved customer service, increased community safety and additional investment in long-term asset management.
• A four-year agreement on competitive general wage increases, in line with market outcomes in the municipal sector: 1.7 per cent in 2019, 1.7 per cent in 2020, 1.6 per cent in 2021 and 1.5 per cent in 2022. This results in the city being able to attract and retain talented employees to continue to meet the service needs of the community.
• Improvements to employee benefits, particularly in mental health services, to better support employees in front line and first responder roles, such as paramedic and social services. This results in a healthier and better supported workforce to serve our most vulnerable populations.
CUPE 4705 represents more than 1,400 full- and part-time inside and outside unit employees. The inside unit represents workers who perform office, clerical, technical, leisure programming, transit, library, museum, paramedical and social services work. The outside unit represents workers who perform mechanical, roads, parks and recreation, building maintenance, water/wastewater, and airport firefighting and maintenance work.