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Central Elgin workers prepare to strike after bargaining impasse with municipality

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Central Elgin municipal workers said they’ll hit the picket line on March 11 if their employer doesn’t meet their demands around wages and benefit enhancements.

Members of CUPE Local 35 held a peaceful support rally as Central Elgin Council held a meeting Monday.

Waving flags and marching around the parking lot, they wanted to get the attention of councilors and staff who were entering the building.

“We want a collective agreement that respects the important work that they do, and right now, we don't feel that the employer is recognizing that,” said Matt Alloway, spokesperson for CUPE Local 35, which consists of 34 members in Central Elgin.

The union is looking for a percentage increase similar to the three per cent that was received by workers in neighbouring municipalities like Southwold and Malahide Townships.

They believe council’s zero per cent tax increase should not come on their backs.

“The Municipality of Central Elgin has met with CUPE,” said Robin Greenall, Central Elgin’s CAO and clerk. “We’ve had about four meetings so far and those meetings have been very honest and respectful between both sides. At this moment in time I'm delivering to council just where CUPE's ask is and to look at the mandate that they had proposed and to see where we can continue on having those conversations.”

As Central Elgin Council held a meeting on Feb. 26, 2024, CUPE Local 35 members could be seen holding a peaceful protest in the parking lot outside the municipal office. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

The union said it will continue to bargain right up until March 11. That is a firm date and at this point, 97 per cent of members are in favour of legal strike action.

They don’t want to have to walk out, but if they did, they believe residents of Central Elgin would see a significant impact.

“They handle water and wastewater, roads, clearing snow, maintenance, salting roads, and solid waste,” said Alloway. “They also look after the bridge down at Port Stanley, and Parks and Rec which includes arena maintenance.”

The union said it would be open to going past the strike deadline if negotiations continue in the right direction. Both sides say they’d like to come to an agreement within the next two weeks.

CUPE Local 35 members include workers in roads, water and wastewater, as well as solid waste and parks and recreation. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“We’re always really in support of continuing the bargaining efforts and communication is what's going to help us achieve a collective agreement,” said Greenall.

However, the union believes there needs to be more frequent communication.

“We just need to sit down and talk,” said Alloway. “We need them to be a little more open minded to our needs, and to, again, respect the work that we do.”

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