August 07, 2015 - 2:30 PM
KAMLOOPS – It's been nearly two months since recycling was picked up curbside in some parts of Kamloops and frustrations are building up for residents and for those on the picket line.
The Emterra Environmental employees have been on strike since June 22 and there appears to be no movement towards a resolution.
The steelworkers union president is getting frustrated with the company's unwilligness to work with union members, and also with how the city, the company's largest client, is being treated.
“They’re treating their biggest client like shit,” President Marty Gibbons says. “I’m happy to hear if anyone can make sense of this.”
Emterra has been in a labour dispute with its employees for several months but it came to a head in June when the union decided to take strike action. Because Emterra holds the contract to sort recycling for the city, pickups in the city have ceased until the strike ends.
Gibbons concedes while it is frustrating, this is not the longest strike he has been a part of.
“Honestly, this is very par for the course,” he says, adding some labour disputes drag on for months, even years.
What he says is 'ridiculous' is the company's refusal to negotiate. As union president, Gibbons has negotiated two past contracts with the Kamloops plant. Those negotiations took two to three months and were solved without a strike or disruption to services.
Gibbons says Emterra Environmental management has 'cried poverty', saying they are unable to afford pay raises.
“We said ‘prove it,’ which is our legal right, and they didn’t.”
The union has asked for the company's financial records, which have not yet been provided.
Gibbons says he would encourage the City of Kamloops to step in. The city has a contract with the recycling plant until the end of the year. City staff have said that the labour dispute is between the company and its employees and does not involve the city.
Ultimately Gibbons says his main responsibility is to the union workers.
“Our main objective is to get our members to work, even if that’s with another employer.”
Manager Judith Jordan of General Grants Sahali walks past a mountain of recyclables collected during the Emterra Environmental strike.
(DANA REYNOLDS /InfoTel Multimedia)
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