Workers from the South Okanagan CUPE 608 endorse strike action

Workers have been bargaining with the City of Penticton for over seven months.

With more than 95 per cent in favour, municipal workers in the City of Penticton have voted overwhelmingly to endorse strike action in a vote held Wednesday.

The workers, members of Local 608 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, have been bargaining with the city for over seven months.

“Life in the South Okanagan is becoming less and less affordable, and our collective agreement is not reflective of the true cost of living in our region,” said CUPE 608 president Shelie Best. “Our frustration is that even after months at the table, we are still facing a proposal that put our members further behind.”

Best cited a B.C. government report, that she says shows that year-over-year inflation in the province was 2.7 per cent as of April 2019. Best also said that Statistics Canada reporting for the country shows that for the 12-months ending April 2019, B.C. led the way on inflation and was first among provinces with a rate 0.7 per cent higher than the national average.

“Our members live and work in this community and we want to see it grow and thrive,” said Best. “We need to ensure Penticton is able to retain and attract qualified staff, and that our city is a leader in providing the kind of good jobs that support families and help the local economy.”

Following the strike vote, the union announced that it was applying to the BC Labour Relations Board to have a mediator appointed. The local bargaining committee is hopeful that a mediator will help talks progress towards a positive resolution.

“We remain committed to working towards a negotiated resolution that fairly address the affordability challenges that see our workers struggling to support their families,” said Best.

CUPE 608 represents workers in communities from Osoyoos in the south, to Princeton in the west and Peachland in the north, including Oliver and Penticton. Altogether, the local represents more than 350 members who live and work in the South Okanagan and Similkameen region.

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