The City of New Westminster may be the first city in Metro Vancouver to reach an agreement with the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
The City of New Westminster and CUPE Local 387 began bargaining in the spring and reached a tentative agreement in late July. CUPE 387 has since ratified the new agreement with 97 per cent support.
Coun. Bill Harper said city staff and CUPE 387 did an excellent job of negotiating the collective agreement.
"It's a win-win," he said of the agreement. "The biggest benefit for us is this gives us real economic certainty."
Harper noted that the four-year agreement provides wage increases that are below the rate of inflation, which is a "huge advantage" for the city.
The four-year agreement covers the period from Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2015. It provides for a wage increase of 6.75 per cent over that time (1.25 per cent in 2012, 1.75 per cent in 2013, 1.75 per cent in 2014 and two per cent in 2015).
According to Harper, this is the first collective agreement that the city has negotiated with CUPE in many years, as Metro Vancouver has been negotiating agreements on behalf of municipalities in recent times.
Because New Westminster is the first city to reach a deal with its employees, Mayor Wayne Wright said it's likely other cities will look to the agreement when negotiating their own collective agreements.
"CUPE accepted the employer's position on capping costly extended health and dental benefits at existing levels," stated a staff report. "This settlement reflects careful consideration of an uncertain global economy and the city's financial commitments; it was achieved without the threat of work stoppage. The mood at the table was respectful and cooperative, focused on achieving a fair and reasonable agreement for the city and its employees. It would seem the City of New Westminster and CUPE Local 387 are the first within the Metro region to reach a settlement."
George Habib, business agent for CUPE 387, said he's pleased with the deal and the support it's received from the membership. He said the union has been interested in the idea of negotiating a collective agreement with the city, rather than being part of a regional process.
"From our point of view, CUPE 387 has been expressing to the city our desire to do exactly that. We do enjoy one of the best labour relationships in the Lower Mainland, in the CUPE region," he said. "If we get along, why do we need a third party?"
Habib believes the union did a "decent job" of negotiating on behalf of its members and hopes it will continue to negotiate collective agreements in the future.
"I am ecstatic with the support we are getting from our membership," he said. "We live in such uncertain economic times. Our members are in tune with that."
Although the agreement caps extended health and dental benefits at existing levels, Habib said that's not a concession.
"That is a win," he said, explaining that those types of benefits are being clawed back in many other places.
CUPE Local 387 has about 650 active members, including 260 full-time employees. The rest are part-time, auxiliary and casual civic employees who work in all city departments (other than the library).