Soon after they were locked out from their jobs, unionized workers of the Town of Paradise were out on the picket line in full force Monday morning.
Braving bitter temperatures and waving Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) flags and signs, a group of about 30 gathered at the entrance/exit of the Paradise Town Hall on McNamara Drive, walking in a circle and shouting chants.
“What do we want?” one man in the group yelled.
“A fair deal!” the group shouted.
“When do we want it?” the man said.
“Right now!” the group replied.
Just up the road, a smaller group of about 10, with a fire burning in a barrel, were walking back and forth at the entrance of the Double Ice Complex, and a few others were further up at the Rotary Paradise Youth and Community Centre.
The workers waved to passing motorists, several of whom honked their horns in support.
The picketers blocked a lineup of garbage trucks, which were said to be driven by managers, waiting to leave the depot, but couldn’t.
“The workers here are really energized by this, ironically,” NAPE president Jerry Earle told The Telegram at the scene.
“They’re determined and they’re going to get more determined as the hours go on.”
The members were locked out at 6 a.m. Monday after months of negotiations broke down.
The collective agreement expired Dec. 31, 2016, and the union had voted on Oct. 15 to strike, but were locked out before they could take action.
“This is a group of workers who want to go to work,” Earle said. “This is an employer, council, that decided to lock these workers out unnecessarily, we suggest.”
The lockout has forced the closure of several town facilities, including the Paradise Double Ice Complex, as well as the youth and community centre, St. Thomas Community Centre, Dianne Whalen Memorial Soccer Complex, Milton Road softball complex and Peter Barry Duff Memorial Park.
All town recreational programming and rentals are suspended, including the after-school program, fitness classes, all birthday party and other such rentals, and all rentals for user groups. All regular inspections of playgrounds and trails have also been suspended.
The town stated that essential services, such as garbage collection and snow/ice control would be maintained during the lockout. Recycling will be suspended.
“Workers here provide an invaluable service to our community … all removed by the town council,” Earle said.
In a news release, Paradise Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Laurie stated, “On two separate occasions we reached tentative agreements, which the bargaining unit negotiating team recommended to its membership, and both times it was rejected.
“We have participated in conciliation and we are still unable to reach a negotiated settlement,” Laurie said.
She said the three-year offer, rejected by the bargaining unit, included a 10 per cent wage increase over three years (five per cent retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017, three per cent in 2018 and two per cent in 2019), increases to standby rates, changes to overtime allocations and an increase in the per diem rate for travel. The offer had no changes to retirement or health benefits.
But Earle said, “Sometimes it’s not always about money.
“I keep saying that and I’ve been at this business a long time. …
“You have to have dialogue if you’re going to resolve tough issues. There are underlying currents that we need to talk about.
“These workers feel disrespected and you can’t resolve them by locking workers out. By doing this, they’re going to entrench these workers and they may make it even more difficult to reach an agreement if they’re not careful.”