After 10 months, the Bonfield municipal workers strike is over.
Following two days of mediated talks convened by a vice-chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the union has ratified a tentative settlement in the long dispute between the Township of Bonfield and CUPE Local 4616-2.
Andrea Addario, CUPE communications officer told BayToday that employees will be back at work on Monday June 16th.
She says the week delay was at the request of the township.
Mayor Randy McLaren says that's so they can get paperwork done and wind down services in preparation of handing work back to the employees.
"I'm pleasantly surprised the contract was ratified so fast," he stated. "From a "must have" perspective, management got the majority of what we wanted. I'm quite satisfied."
That includes moving the jobs of clerk-treasurer and director of public works out of the union and into management positions. This says McLaren will allow the municipality to get a better handle on scheduling and overtime.
“We worked really hard to reach a deal that both we and the Township can live with,” said Diane Francoeur, spokesperson for the striking workers.
“Ultimately, we were able to push the all the major concessions off the table. Equally crucially, the five workers who were terminated by Mayor McLaren during the strike have been reinstated.”
“Our members are so looking forward to getting back to work to service the residents of Bonfield,” said Gail Ashby, co-chair of the strike committee.
CUPE National President Paul Moist, who visited the strikers on their picket line, introduced them to the 5,000 delegates at the Canadian Labour Congress convention in May, and led fundraising efforts for them, hailed their tenacity: "The Bonfield workers who held the line for ten months in this defensive strike have been a source of inspiration for all of CUPE. You have shown us what it means to stand up for your collective agreement, to stand up to a bullying employer, to stand up for public services."
But McLaren strongly disputes the bullying allegation.
"That's a term they tried to paint me with. This is the first contract where it wasn't rubber stamped (by management). The union labeled me a bully because they didn't agree."
"One of the biggest bullies in Canada is CUPE and council did quite well against them," said McLaren.
"If anybody is a bully, it's the biggest union in Canada with 550,000 members up against four members of municipal council."
McLaren says the strike has hurt him and councillors both financially and health-wise.
"We're all self-employed," he explained. "When you have to work extra for free, the stress starts to show."
But the Mayor says he expects the striking employees to be happy to be back to work with no animosity.
"We're one team working for the citizens," he added.