FORT SMITH, NWT, May 23, 2012 /CNW/ - Fort Smith municipal workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action on May 10. The workers are members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada-Union of Northern Workers. They voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action after a deadlock in negotiations for a new collective agreement. Their previous contract expired in December 2011.
They were able to negotiate several articles of the new collective agreement, but the municipality of Fort Smith refuses to guarantee that the public services currently delivered by PSAC members will not be contracted out to private enterprises.
The workers want to prevent the contracting out of municipal services because it could endanger the quality of services and in some cases the well-being of the population. Previous experiments with privatization of services in Fort Smith had to be abandoned because of rising costs.
Julie Docherty, the PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President for the North, is hoping that the conciliation process which will start on May 30 will bring positive results to this negotiation.
"The workers' demands are very reasonable," Docherty said. "We can only hope that the municipality will recognize the need to better protect quality public services," she added.
According to Todd Parsons, President of the Union of Northern Workers, the workers are proud of the services they deliver to their community and they want to maintain the quality of those services.
"Public sector workers are better equipped to deliver public services at a lower cost than a private company which would only be seeking to increase its profit margin," Parsons said.
In the past the town had turned over the maintenance of its local arena to a private company. In 2009 faced with constantly rising costs, the municipality of Fort Smith gave back the maintenance of the municipal arena to its employees. Since then, the work has been accomplished within schedule and within budget.
Fort Smith municipal workers ensure that the community has access to safe drinking water. They also provide water to two communities in Alberta, Border Town and Fort Fitzgerald. The workers look after road maintenance, garbage pick-up, after-school programs, day camps and a recreation complex.
The Union of Northern Workers/ Public Service Alliance of Canada supports strong public services and remains opposed to privatization of public infrastructure and public services.
For further information:
Julie Docherty at (867)-669-0991 or
Todd Parsons at (867)-873-5668