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'Show us you do care': City, library workers union issue strike notice

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The union representing about 6,000 city workers has notified the City of Edmonton they could walk off the job as soon as Thursday.

Among those the Civic Service Union 52 (CSU 52) represents are 911 operators, administrative and clerical workers, and staff at recreation centres and libraries.

"How can they expect us to believe they value us when they won't even talk to us about anything but a zero?" asked Darlene Woodham, an office coordinator who has worked with the city for 44 years who demonstrated with her colleagues outside Clareview Community Recreation Centre Monday morning.

"It's time to back up what you say. If you value us, give us something more than a zero. Show us you do care."

In a direct vote last week, 87 per cent of the group turned down a retroactive 7.5-per cent increase for 2021-25.

CSU 52 says the city for the past 18 months refused to include 2024 and 2025 in the negotiations until the last minute and so the union has stuck to asking for 1.5-per cent increases for each 2021 and 2022 and two per cent in 2023.

"We're not far apart, but as I said, once again, my members do not want to eat a zero (per cent increase) in 2021 after taking them in '19 and '20," union president Lanny Chudyk told CTV News Edmonton.

Bargaining has never been tougher, he added, chalking it up to the inexperience of new councillors.

He said he was prepared to return to the negotiating table throughout the weekend, but did not hear from the city's bargaining team.

However, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi described the difference between the union's position and the city's as "quite wide."

"The only way to resolve that gap is through negotiations," he said.

"The services that the city provides are so essential, so valued, and so critical for the wellbeing of many, many Edmontonians and the functioning of our city. So I am deeply concerned about any disruption that a strike or a lockout can cause."

"Bluntly," Chudyk commented, "the city's messaging over the last few weeks – things like 'we value you' from the mayor and 'we respect you, we can't run this organization without you' (and) the same kind of comments from the city manager – have infuriated my members.

"If you really value them, we would have a deal today."

City manager Andre Corbould reiterated Monday that the city's offer on Friday was "compelling even in light of our current financial realities."

After a 72-hour notice period, the picket line could begin to form at 11 a.m. on Thursday.

Officials said plans are being made to support critical services, like 911 operations, if a strike happens.

On Monday evening, the Edmonton Public Library in a media release said it would temporarily close all its locations until further notice starting Thursday at 11 a.m. due to the impending strike.

The EPL said library users can continue to access its online resources and should keep any loaned material at home until it reopens. It said all due dates will be extended and late fees will not accrue.

Speaking to the lasting impact of strikes, in both delays and workplace sentiment, Coun. Tim Cartmell said, "Let's just jump ahead to the discussion-conversation part and get this solved.

"I'm not saying capitulate, I'm not saying give in on all terms. I'm saying it's going to take a discussion and a negotiation to solve it, so let's get on with discussing and negotiating."

The last time CSU 52 went on strike was in 1976.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson 

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