City and union both lost communications battle, podcasters say

City and union both lost communications battle, podcasters say

· The Pulse

Communications strategies coming from both the city and Civic Service Union 52 (CSU 52) during their tense labour negotiations have been subpar, said Troy Pavlek, co-host of Episode 255 of Speaking Municipally.

On March 14, the city and union reached a tentative deal, thereby preventing more than 5,000 city workers from striking.

"I think the main thing that really caused this to happen was the gross incompetence of basically everyone involved," said Pavlek. He said statements from CSU 52 president Lanny Chudyk made it seem that council was supposed to take funding from Blatchford, electric buses, and LRT projects to pay for union raises.

"It is galling to me the level of amateurism with which CSU 52 comms, headed by Lanny Chudyk, managed to represent themselves," Pavlek said. "If I was a union member I'd be thinking strongly about a stark change in union leadership."

On the other side, city council released a joint statement that described the city's offer as "fair and equitable." Pavlek said parts of the statement were potentially misleading the public, including describing the city's offer as a 7.25% wage increase over five years. "It's a bit misleading insofar as it doesn't include the two years of zeros that the union has took," Pavlek said.

Co-host Mack Male said the statement also doesn't mention that some employees would be working longer hours as a part of the new agreement. "When you take into account that they are working more hours than they would have been before, the raise is even smaller than that percentage."

The statement said the union's proposal, if applied to all city employees, would cost the city $47.5 million and result in an additional tax increase of 2.5% for 2024. But Pavlek pointed out the proposal would only be applied to CSU 52 members. "The thing that's not being said here is 'If we gave CSU 52 what they were asking for, it would cost us about $11 million,' and that equates to about a 0.6% tax increase."

The co-hosts added they thought it strange that Coun. Tim Cartmell signed the joint statement after releasing his own statement. Cartmell previously said all sides needed to work together to get a contract in place and called for council to "take a leadership role" in negotiations.

"(Cartmell) signed the (joint) letter basically saying the direct opposite — that the negotiating team was great, that the offer put forward by administration is fair and equitable for both the union and the broader citizens of Edmonton and that it was a great deal, and they stand behind the negotiating team and are ready to bargain," Pavlek said. "That was a stark switch."

Hear more on the averted strike, plus discussion of council's automatic raise and the Katz Group's surface parking lots on the March 15 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

Photo: A file photo of city council in council chambers. Podcast co-hosts Mack Male and Troy Pavlek said council's communications were not clear during the recent labour dispute between the city and Civic Service Union 52. (Mack Male/Flickr)