Water commission hopes to avoid strike

A strike may be averted at the Halifax regional water commission.

By Tanya Kunwongse

More than half of the 400 employees at the Halifax regional water commission were ready to go on strike in early February.
Now negotiations are proceeding and there may not be a strike.

“We started (negotiating) back again this week, and we seem to be making progress,” says James Campbell, Halifax regional water commission’s spokesperson.  “Union and management are hopeful that we’ll have (an agreement) in the very near future.”

James Campbell, Halifax water spokesperson. (Photo Tanya Kunwongse)

The water commission collects, treats, and distributes water, wastewater, and storm water. They also fix water pipe breakage, which Campbell notes is a frequent occurrence.

However, in the case of a strike, people in Halifax won’t have to worry about water shortage.

“We do have a contingency plan to keep the water flowing and the waste water treated,” says Campbell.

“It’s (an) essential service. Residents, businesses, hospitals, and fire services all count on the water.”

Workers from within the company will deal with any problems, though the response time may not be as fast.

“I expect the public won’t really notice much different at all,” says Campbell.

Originally, the Canadian Union of Public Employees voted to go on strike for two main reasons.

Related Resources
Read the Union’s strike offers

“One of the sticking points the Union has is about the seven day notice for planned work. It wouldn’t be permanent (for all work),” explains Campbell, “For example, if there was an intersection that had to be done, it might be best on a weekend, so that it would be less destructive for traffic.”

The idea is that workers should be able to plan on a date that will interfere least with their work and personal lives.

There’s also concern about limited funding, a situation Campbell describes as “dire.” Campbell worries that city funding is not keeping up with rising costs of maintenance.

“We’re not getting the rates we require,” says Campbell.

In their last offer on January 17, the Union stated that their wage offers fell “short of what other workers in this sector are receiving and doesn’t even match inflation which is over three per cent right now.”