Jail guards at the Kelowna RCMP detachment are providing essential services, but not everything they do falls under the “essential” category.
Commissionaires, the not-for-profit contractor that provides guards to the city’s jail, recently asked the British Columbia Labour Relations Board to make that decision, after its guards voted in support of strike action last month.
The 17 Kelowna guards belong to CUPE Local 338, and claim they are among the worst paid jail guards in the region.
According to union president Lee Mossman, the labour board ruled that the main part of the guards’ job (prisoner safety and security) is essential, but that many of the other tasks they are required to perform are not.
The labour board’s decision had the potential to limit the union’s ability to go on strike, but Mossman says he’s “happy” with the decision, and that the union is “looking forward” to resuming contract talks with Commissionaires.
Julie Powers is the director of client services and operations at Commissionaires BC. She pointed out that the labour board’s order requires certain staffing levels be maintained at the Kelowna jail.
“If Commissionaires fails to provide the services required under our commercial contract, the contract could be cancelled, resulting in job loss for all present employees. Clearly, nobody wants that to happen,” she said.
She said Commissionaires has “repeatedly expressed its willingness” to have contract negotiations decided by binding arbitration, but that the union has rejected the offer, and “continues to threaten the strike.”
“It’s difficult for us to understand the union’s goals when they reject both fair and reasonable offers, as well as a process to reach a collective agreement with the help a neutral third party,” she said in an email.
Mossman said the union is “still regrouping” after the labour board decision, but is “open to more discussions” soon. He couldn’t say at this time when negotiations might resume.
“We’re still hoping to get together and work something out before we even have to consider some type of job action,” Mossman said.
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