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CUPE protest at City Council meeting

By Nick Seebruch

Published on September 25, 2017

Kevin Drew, Shawn Hamel and Tim Morgan taking part in the CUPE protest outside of Cornwall City Council on Monday, September 25 (Nick Seebruch/ TC Media).

CORNWALL, Ontario - The five Canadian Union of Public Employee councils (CUPE) that represent approximately 600 City of Cornwall employees protested outside the Cornwall City Council Meeting that took place on Monday, Sept. 25.

The union employees have all been operating without contracts for about a year or more and earlier this year it was reported in local media that City Council had passed a zero percent increase to their wages in a closed meeting.

National CUPE Representative for Cornwall Keith Sandford said that the protest was about being heard by Council.

"Its about getting to the table and not doing negotiations in the papers," he said.

CUPE members were not consulted by Council before they decided to freeze their wages for the year.

Alison Denis, another National Representative for CUPE stated that usually the City negotiated contracts based on two-to-three-year mandates, but this year, according to CUPE, Geoff Clarke, General Manager for Corporate Services, only has a one-year mandate to negotiate.

Since, City contracts with CUPE have already been expired for a year, CUPE feels the lifetime of a one-year mandate would be short lived.

"We feel the City wants us to roll over with the old contracts which is no real negotiation," said Denis.

Clarke said he would not comment on an ongoing negotiation.

City of Cornwall Mayor Leslie O'Shaughnessy met with the protesters outside of City Hall prior to the Monday night council meeting. The Mayor told Seaway News that CUPE members should not hold ill will against City Administration.

"I expect them to bring forward their proposals," he said. "Administration should not be held accountable for decisions of Council."

The CUPE councils present at the protest were Council 3251, which represents inside workers, 234, which represents outside workers, 1792, for Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge employees, 3251-51 for library workers, and 5734 which represents paramedics.

CUPE has proposed that the City engage with them in negotiations for the month of November, and have said that they will continue to protest council meetings until they are invited to the table and get a fair deal.