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Inside city workers picket outside Saint John City Hall on Sept. 12, 2023. Image: Submitted/Brittany Doyle

UPDATED: Saint John city workers begin strike action

By Brad Perry Sep 12, 2023 | 11:31 AM

Nearly 140 Saint John city workers, including 911 operators, were off the job as of early Tuesday.

Inside workers represented by CUPE Local 486 began their strike action as of 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Union members work in clerical, administrative, support, IT and technical roles encompassing various municipal services.

That includes police/fire/911 dispatch, customer service, bylaw enforcement, permitting, recreation, court services, financial services, administrative support, IT and technical roles.

In a statement Tuesday, the city said it has redeployed managers and non-union staff to deliver critical services during the strike.

“Citizens can be rest assured that there will be no interruption to emergency operations, including 911,” said the statement.

However, the Saint John Police Force said there will be delays in accessing non-emergency public services.

The front doors of Peel Plaza will remain locked during business hours and non-emergency public access will be disrupted, but 24/7 emergency access will remain available throughout the strike.

Several police services are being suspended until further notice, including criminal record checks and fingerprints for the public; requests for collision reports for insurance purposes; and requests and results for access to information.

In addition, residents may experience delays in accessing non-emergency telephone call processing and email inquiries; information about court cases; lost, seized, or found property; and non-provincial victim services.

“We want to ensure the public that we have activated a contingency plan taking all necessary steps to ensure continuity of service and protection of our citizens,” the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners said in a statement on Tuesday.

The board said it made a proposal to CUPE on Monday to have 911 operators remain on the job as essential workers and have their wages independently arbitrated, as is the case with police officers, but the offer was rejected.

RELATED: Saint John city workers vote to strike

You will not be able to access Saint John’s Customer Service Centre in person but you can still call 506-658-4455 or email service@saintjohn.ca.

Residents should expect longer than usual wait times as calls are being prioritized based on urgency and need, the city said.

In addition, the city said citizens should expect some delays to all municipal service levels due to picketing activity.

The union claims the city has been offering a contract which violates its own wage escalation policy.

That policy, approved by council in 2019, said a three-year rolling average of assessment base growth should be used in contract negotiations.

But the city disputes that claim, arguing that it has a “fair and reasonable offer” on the table.

In the event of a strike by CUPE members, the city said it has contingency plans in place to minimize the disruption to public services.

City officials have said there are contingency plans in place to minimize public service disruption during a strike.