By Robert Devet
It’s been almost a month now since Halifax Water workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), were locked out by managementThat’s a long time to walk the picket lines. But the large and boisterous crowd that rallied at Halifax City Hall this evening seemed as determined as ever.
‘Our morale is wonderful on the lines. We are solid and strong and we are going to stick with this,” says Heather Corkum, president of CUPE Local 1431.
“But it’s frustrating to hear in the media that Halifax Water is supposedly wiling to come back to the table,” Corkum says. “Halifax Water hasn’t been willing to move since day one. They still have this take it or leave it attitude.”
“We bargained in good faith for 15 months. We bargained down to our bottom line, we made some serious concessions,” says Corkum. “We found ways to save them a lot of money and to keep this pension a good pension and affordable for Halifax Water.”
The union believes that in order to break the stalemate it is necessary to exert political pressure. After all, Mayor Mike Savage, City Councilors Russell Walker, David Hendsbee and Barry Dalrymple, and Halifax’ Chief Administrative Officer Richard Butts are all members of the Halifax Water Board of Governors.
Butts doesn’t vote, but the Mayor and the three Councilors together form a majority on the Board.
Council was meeting inside City Hall while the rally took place. Speaker after speaker reminded councilors, who were meeting inside, that Halifax Water workers are voters. So are their relatives, their friends, and their fellow union members, for that matter.
Meanwhile, signs that a larger political agenda is behind the lack of movement are becoming more prevalent.
“Halifax workers also have a good pension plan, and the City wants to cut that one as well,” Corkum asserts. “If they can break us, than they can break the other workers.”
HRM management put exactly that proposal on the table, just last night at at the pension committee meeting,” she says. “This includes increasing the early retirement age, cutting survivors’ benefits.”
Speakers at the rally included Danny Cavanagh, president of CUPE Nova Scotia, Dave Dort and Heather Corkum, presidents of the two CUPE locals affected by the lock-out, and Rick Clarke of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.
“This employer (Halifax Water) is one of the most anti-union employers ever. They hire scabs, and they hire scab security workers,” said Clarke. “That’s our tax dollars that’s going into an Ontario anti-union and anti-worker firm.”
“The councilors say, we are insulated from that, we have no say in that. That’s a bunch of bull,” Clarke said.
My message is, they can hide behind that crap, but they still will be held accountable. (Mayor Savage and councilors) are the ones that are answerable here.”
Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert
This piece was first published on by the Halifax Media Co-op