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Unionized Kelowna city workers vote to strike

Unionized Kelowna city workers have voted 94 per cent in favour of strike action in bid to prompt a return to the bargaining table by their union's negotiators and those representing the city.

While CUPE local 338 president Lee Mossman did not return calls Thursday about the strike vote, which was held Wednesday night, a spokesman for the city confirmed the vote result saying it had been relayed to the city hall by the union.

The union represents 654 city workers, who have been without a contract since the start of year. Negotiations between the city and union broke off last month. It was then that the union decided to hold the strike vote.

The last contract for city workers was reached with the assistance of a mediator in January 2011. That deal included a retroactive wage hike of 1.25 per cent for 2010, an increase of 1.25 per cent in 2011, and increases of 1.5 per cent in both 2012 and 2013.

City spokesman Tom Wilson said while both sides have agreed not to negotiate through the media, Kelowna's human resources director Stu Leatherdale, who is handling negotiations for the city, hopes both sides can get back to the table soon.

Wilson would not go into detail about specific issues discussed prior to the break down of negotiation but said wages are always an issue.

While worker support for a strike was overwhelming, Wilson cautioned that job action, if it occurs, would likely be a ways off. Prior to any job action, he said, both sides would have to negotiate essential service levels for the many services  the city provides. In addition, strike notice would have to be served and the union would have to wait 72 hours before it could launch any job action.

The strike mandate is good for three months.

 

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