The City of Estevan and its employees, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 726, have reached a new three-year collective bargaining agreement.
The pact is retroactive to January 1, 2013, and it will expire on December 31, 2015. There will be a 10.5 per cent wage increase over three years, as City employees will receive a four per cent bump this year, followed by a 3 1/2 per cent hike in 2014 and a three per cent jump in 2015.
"Wages were the main issue," said Mayor Roy Ludwig, who chaired the City's collective bargaining team. “We also increased some of the benefits.”
About 85 per cent of CUPE employees supported the deal, according to Tim Anderson, who is the president of CUPE Local 21 in Regina. He was the lead negotiator for CUPE Local 726 during the discussions with the City of Estevan. .
The City and CUPE signed off on the pact on August 19.
Anderson said the new CBA also took care of training issues, and housekeeping matters such classification tables and job descriptions.
As part of the agreement, a liaison committee is now in place, so the City and CUPE will discuss ongoing issues before they become big problems, Ludwig said. They will also work through some of the issues related to classifications.
"At the labour management liaison committee, we'll have up to five members representing CUPE, one of which will be the president, and up to five members representing the employer," said Ludwig.
"Employment relationships have certainly evolved over the years, and it's a much more cooperative process," added Anderson. "I believe that both parties are partners in the business of the City of Estevan, and I believe both parties are looking to achieve the same things.
Ludwig said the negotiations went very well, as they were characterized by open and frank discussions on challenges facing the community.
He said they met six or seven times before the new pact was reached.
Anderson agreed with Ludwig's assessment of the negotiations.
"They were very amicable," said Anderson. "I would characterize it as very progressive thinking. I think the employer's bargaining team came to the table with some very legitimate issues, and were looking for some solutions, and I think both sides worked hard to reach those solutions."
The old-fashioned approach to bargaining was to have both sides sit down, scream at each other and create acrimonious negotiations, Anderson said, but that didn't happen in these negotiations between the two sides.