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Grand Falls-Windsor union looking for answers from town

Members of CUPE Local 1349 in Grand Falls-Windsor staged an information demonstration on Dec. 11.
Members of CUPE Local 1349 in Grand Falls-Windsor staged an information demonstration on Dec. 11. - Nicholas Mercer

The union that represents municipal employees in Grand Falls-Windsor held a demonstration Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 11.

A couple dozen union members held signs and flags in front of the town hall in Grand Falls-Windsor 

The demonstration comes after the town released the results of an organizational and operational review earlier this month. 

The review, conducted by KPMG Consulting, laid out a series of 21 recommendations for the town to streamline operations.

On Nov. 29, the union received a letter from the town informing them that some of the guidelines found in the review are scheduled to be implemented in early January 2020. 

“(CUPE Local 1349) are not completely against the whole report,” said CUPE Local 1349 vice president Tammie Greening, “A lot of this report has good recommendations for management to follow. It has things that we should’ve been following all along (like) our concerns with public safety, public and our employees.” 

In that letter, the town indicated there will be some loss of union jobs as a result of the restructuring recommended in the review. Among the layoffs are a stockroom clerk, a purchasing officer, the mayor’s secretary and one of the town’s municipal enforcement officers. 

“Nowhere in the report does it say or recommend to get rid of this municipal enforcement officer and that is of grave concern to us. We would think it would be of concern to the public as well,” said Greening.  

Greening said the town’s enforcement officers are usually the first, and sometimes the only ones, on the scene of an emergency situation.

The review calls for the hiring of additional management positions in the town. The union also maintains they’re lobbied for a long time for an increase in manpower to help with snow clearing, garbage collection and other services. 

“We’d like to state that managers are not going to be the ones out clearing the roads and if every manager called in sick tomorrow, our town would still run because of the frontline workers,” said Greening.  

He added the union has always had concerns about the plan to contract out some work, like geographic information system services.

The union says that action, as well other items identified in the KPMG review, violates the collective bargaining agreement. 

“Currently, we have staff hired that are qualified to do that,” said CUPE Local 1349 secretary Laurie Ann Warford of the information system services. “To contract that out, doesn’t really make much sense.” 
The union says they have emailed the town’s chief administrative officer Darrin Finn in an attempt to get clarification on their concerns but have yet to hear back. 

The union wants the chance to communicate these concerns and work towards a common resolution. 

“We know we might not get everything that we’re looking for, they might not get everything that they’re looking for, but we can work together to ensure safety and everything for our town,” said Greening. 

In a press release Thursday, Grand Falls-Windsor addressed some of the concerns voiced by the union the previous day.

The release confirmed their intentions to hire five new positions and that they will be eliminating four additional roles through either attrition or layoffs with one of those being a position in the municipal police department. That would bring the number of municipal enforcement officers down to three.

"Ultimately, the town's responsibility is to operate in the most fiscally responsible manner possible," the release reads. "The intended changes to the organizational structure will be made with that responsibility in mind."
In the release, the town also commits to not contracting any of its services out.
"Town management staff informed CUPE that the implementation of these recommendations will take time, and there will be more discussion with them moving forward," said the release. "The town is committed to listening constructively and to considering all concerns."

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