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Photos from the City of Saint John appear to show workers standing in front of garbage trucks lined up along Whitebone Way on Sept. 25, 2023. Image: Submitted/City of Saint John

UPDATED: Garbage collection halted across Saint John

By Brad Perry Sep 26, 2023 | 4:16 PM

Garbage collection ground to a halt across Saint John on Tuesday amid ongoing strike action by the city’s inside workers.

City officials claim picket lines by CUPE Local 486 workers have prevented garbage trucks from moving for the past two days.

Photos sent by the city appear to show workers standing in front of garbage trucks lined up along Whitebone Way on the east side.

Mayor Donna Reardon said the “illegal strategy” prevents workers from completing their routes to serve residents.

“This is completely unacceptable behaviour as Local 486 does not offer this front-facing service to the community,” Reardon said in a news release on Tuesday.

“Unions have the right to strike and picket. But there are rules around how that is to be done, and illegally picketing to halt services not provided by Local 486 is unacceptable.”

Striking workers in Saint John stand near a line of garbage trucks along Whitebone Way. Image: Submitted/City of Saint John

Meanwhile, the union representing the striking workers are disputing claims made by the city.

Brittany Doyle, president of CUPE Local 486, said the city is “misleading” residents.

“We are well within our right to legally picket those areas and those city assets. We have not done anything illegal,” Doyle said in an interview.

Doyle said police have been called several times and they have always complied with directions from officers.

“We can impede traffic. We can’t block traffic, we can’t stop traffic on a road,” she said.

“Those vehicles aren’t moving. Those vehicles are parked, there’s no drivers in those vehicles, so we’re not blocking anything.”

The union president believes the city may be using this strategy to help garner support for the employer — but she does not think it is working.

“The citizens have been seeing what’s been going on on social media and in the media, and the comments are overwhelmingly in support of our members,” said Doyle.

Around 140 clerical, administrative and support staff, represented by CUPE Local 486, walked off the job on Sept. 12.

Members 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.

Union and city bargaining teams resumed negotiations with the support of provincial mediators over the weekend, but no deal was reached after 12 hours at the table.

Wages are the main sticking point in the ongoing dispute, which has caused some service delays over the past couple of weeks.

In July, the city offered the union a zero per cent wage increase in 2022, a 5.35 per cent increase in 2023, 2.1 per cent in 2024 and 2025, and 2.25 per cent in 2026.

In lieu of a wage increase in the first year, the city said it would pay a $5,000 signing bonus to each member of the union.

Instead, CUPE wants a salary increase of 3.04 per cent, which is the wage escalation policy cap for 2022.