EDMONTON - Hopes of a Grey Cup weekend free from disruptions and labour unrest are "disappearing fast" as a result of yet more examples of bad faith bargaining by management at the Shaw Conference Centre.
Last Friday, it looked like a deal had finally been reached to end the bitter six-month strike at the city-owned convention facility. But over the week-end, it became clear that managers at Economic Development Edmonton (EDE) are still more interested in busting the union than reaching a fair settlement with striking workers.
"We don't think it was a coincidence that EDE was sounding so hopeful and conciliatory on Friday morning," says AFL president Les Steel. "City Council was meeting to discuss the strike, with the possibility of intervening with binding arbitration. But Council backed-off when EDE convinced them that a deal was imminent. As it turned out, there was no deal - and EDE knew it. It's yet another example of EDE attempting to manipulate Council."
Steel says that after Council was convinced to stay out of the dispute, EDE returned to its hard-line approach to bargaining.
"At the time, there were only two items left on the table - the back-to-work agreement and the process for ratification," said Steel. "In most labour disputes, these are mere formalities. But in this case, EDE put forward demands that were so outrageous that it was obvious the workers couldn't accept. So far in this strike, EDE has been found guilty of bargaining in bad faith four times. This proves that they're still playing the same game."
Alex Grimaldi, president of the Edmonton and District Labour Council (EDLC), says the back-to-work agreement proposed by management doesn't guarantee that strikers will get their jobs back. And it even calls for a letter of resignation from a striker who was ordered reinstated by the Labour Relations Board. At the same time, EDE is trying to dictate how the ratification vote should be structured.
"Under the law, unions have the right to run their own votes with supervision from the Labour Relations Board, if necessary," says Grimaldi. "But EDE says they want to run the show, presumably in order to continue their campaign against the union."
Grimaldi says EDE is trying to portray itself as a defender of democracy - but their proposed vote would be no more democratic that the votes held in "tin-pot dictatorships were supporters of the ruling party are bused to voting stations and opponents are excluded."
"It's obvious they want to influence the vote, defeat the contract and set up a vote on decertification," agrees Steel. "That's why the workers can't accept these terms. And it's why - if nothing changes - there will probably be demonstrations at the Shaw Conference Centre during the Grey Cup. It's not what most union supporters would like to be doing - they'd rather be watching the game. But EDE is leaving us with no choice."
Both Steel and Grimaldi say that the only way to avoid demonstrations and disruptions during the Grey Cup is for City Council to finally realize that they're being "strung along" by EDE - and submit the dispute to binding arbitration.
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President 780-499-4135 (cell)
Alex Grimaldi, EDLC President 780-940-6797 (cell)