In a press release published by the Comox Valley Record recently, Comox Mayor Paul Ives put a positive spin on the town’s new five-year collective agreement. But there’s much more to this story.
It is good news, of course, that the town finally reached an agreement, considering that the last contract expired in March 2016, about a year-and-a-half ago. But why it took so long hints at the unreported backstory.
What Ives and the rest of the Comox Council don’t want you to know is that they tried to crack their public employees union with a two-tiered wage proposal.
Ives didn’t mention that the union staged multiple flash mobs waving signs of discontent around the Comox Valley, or their overwhelming strike vote, or the reason for such unrest by good, hard-working people.
According to several sources with inside knowledge of the negotiations between the Town of Comox and CUPE local 556, which represents municipal employees throughout the Comox Valley, the town hired an out-of-town negotiator who pressed a proposal that would have divided employees.
The town proposed that all new hires in certain categories would be compensated according to a different, and lower, wage structure. For example, when the town hired new custodians and gardeners, they would have worked under a separate compensation agreement, and the town would have paid them less.
That idea didn’t sit well with the town’s working people.
During the negotiations, Comox employees staged many flash mobs around the Comox Valley, waving signs that urged support for protecting the livelihood of future town employees.
So, after 80 percent of the town’s employees voted unanimously to strike, the town withdrew its proposal, terminated its hired-gun negotiator and a contract agreement was reached.
Surprise! All the employees wanted was a fair deal.
Did Mayor Ives and council members want to break the union? That is a logical interpretation of its proposed two-tiered wage structure. The purpose of the proposal is clear: At some point in the future, as existing workers on the current pay grid retired or moved on to other jobs, the town would employ only these lower-paid workers.
What other explanation is there? I suppose is it also possible that the Town of Comox’s finances are in such bad shape that they have to reduce expenses by squeezing their working-class employees.
But it wouldn’t seem so, considering the town just spent nearly $2 million on a twin-sail-roof building, and other upgrades at Marina Park, without knowing exactly how it will be used. The town is only now holding meetings to figure that out.
And that dollar figure doesn’t include the new children’s splash park, which is a nice addition.
Mayor Ives refused to comment for this story, except to say that all my “facts are as usual wrong,” but he declined an opportunity to specify and correct the errant facts to which he referred.