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

Saint John releases details about wage offer to striking workers

By Brad Perry Sep 15, 2023 | 9:03 PM

Saint John city officials have released details about the wage package that was offered to nearly 140 striking city workers.

The Friday evening release came on day four of strike action by clerical, administrative and support staff represented by CUPE Local 486.

“The City’s wage proposal to CUPE Local 486 is fair, responsible and fully compliant with Council’s Wage Escalation Policy,” the city said in a statement.

It included a $5,000 bonus for each member in year one of the offer, which the city said is equivalent to a 5.38 per cent increase. The offer also included a 5.35 per cent increase in year two, a 2.1 per cent in years three and four, and an 2.25 per cent increase in year five.

Union officials have not said what their most recent proposal was. The president of CUPE Local 486 did not immediately respond to our request for comment on Friday evening.

Wages have been the main sticking point in the contract dispute between the two sides. The union claims the city has been offering a contract which violates its own wage escalation policy.

That policy, approved by council in 2019, places a cap on increases to the wage and benefits budget by using the three-year rolling average of tax base growth.

But the city alleges the union has “chosen to misinterpret the wage escalation policy as a communication tactic for the strike.”

“For context, CUPE Local 486 is asking for more than the New Brunswick teachers were just awarded, City of Saint John Fire, Saint John Police, the city’s outside workforce and city management,” Mayor Donna Reardon was quoted as saying in the Friday evening statement.

According to figures provided by the city, the wage escalation policy cap is 3.04 per cent for 2022 and 5.35 per cent for 2023. The cap for 2024 through 2026 has not yet been determined.

Members of CUPE Local 486 work in several city departments, including police/fire/911 dispatch, customer service, bylaw enforcement, permitting, recreation, court services, financial services, administrative support, IT and technical roles.