Fredericton outside workers threaten strike, not afraid to 'stand around'

Fredericton – The city of Fredericton is due to meet with CUPE Local 508 (which includes departments such as parks and trees, and snow removal) to determine whether the city’s outside workers will receive a 2.5 percent wage increase annually.

A union meeting last Wednesday ended with 78 percent of the city’s outside workers voting in favour of a strike in the event that negotiations are unsuccessful.

The thought of such a strike has left Fredericton residents feeling uneasy.

“I just can’t picture outside workers in a strike situation,” said Bradley Clarke, a student at UNB Fredericton. “Imagine driving by an outdoor worksite; the site looks normal, but all the workers are just standing around. Maybe 1 or 2 hold up signs, but other than that they all do pretty much nothing. We’ve never seen anything like that before — it would be very unfortunate.”

Local shop owner John MacMillan was more confident in the unlikeliness of a strike.

“It’ll never happen,” he told The Manatee this morning. “We’re talking about city workers here. They may talk big now, but when it actually comes time to choose between working and not working, I think we all know what they’ll do.”

Local 508 president Kevin Smallwood said: “We are optimistic negotiations will work out for everyone involved, but we want the City of Fredericton to know that we are not afraid to strike. We will stand around if we have to.”

“But we don’t want to rush anything,” he added. “We definitely want to take a step back from the problem, examine it, evaluate it, hear from everyone involved, sit down for a bit, think about it, take a break, get everybody’s opinion again, think on it some more, another break, and then I think we’ll have something to bring to the negotiation table.”

Talks resume Nov. 30.

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