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Garbage collection resumes in Saint John

By Brad Perry Sep 27, 2023 | 5:00 PM

Garbage collection has resumed in a “limited” capacity across Saint John, the city announced Wednesday.

However, residents are still being told to expect delays due to an ongoing strike by the city’s inside workers.

If your garbage was supposed to be collected at some point since Monday, the city said you should leave it at the curb.

Any other garbage missed over the past two weeks should be placed curbside on your next regular collection day.

The city said it has also suspended its bag tag program for excess garbage until further notice, meaning residents will not have to pay for extra trash at the curb.

Curbside compost and recycling collection will continue to be suspended until further notice.

City officials halted all garbage collection on Tuesday, claiming that “illegal” picket lines by CUPE Local 486 workers were preventing garbage trucks from moving.

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

“This is completely unacceptable behaviour as Local 486 does not offer this front-facing service to the community,” Mayor Donna 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.”

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

However, the president of CUPE Local 486 said the city is “misleading” residents by claiming their activities are illegal.

Brittany Doyle said they are well within their right to picket any city asset, including garbage trucks.

“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.”

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

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.

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