No clear winner in arbitrator's decision on overhaul of Kamloops bylaw | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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No clear winner in arbitrator's decision on overhaul of Kamloops bylaw

The City of Kamloops will have to go back to negotiations with the public employees union after a labour relations arbitrator ruled on the City's 2020 overhaul of the bylaw department.

An arbitrator found the City was within its rights to change the bylaw department, now called Community Services, but it ran afoul with union agreements when it did so, according to a City news release.

"I don't think it's a clear win for the City and I don't think it's a clear win for the union. It's kind of in between," the City's chief administrative officer David Trawin said. "We expect something to come out here in the next two or three weeks — some kind of direction to move on."

READ MORE: Kamloops bylaw department on the way to 'peace officer' status

Arbitrator Andy Sims' decision is more than 70 pages long and Trawin said he will be consulting with City lawyers in the days ahead. He said the City was given the decision this morning, Aug. 14.

Exactly what the arbitrator decided isn't clear yet as the document hasn't been made public and Trawin would not provide a copy.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees local 900, which represents municipal employees in Kamloops, challenged the City after it overhauled its bylaw department.

READ MORE: What Prince George can teach Okanagan, Kamloops about crime reporting

The union argued the City breached their collective bargaining agreement when it rebranded the department, adding new requirements such as a fitness test for new and current employees. The City also added mental health response training, as the Community Service Officer transition was largely billed as a response to the rising homelessness and opioid crisis in the city.

Prior to the 2020 transition, there were 18 full time and five part time bylaw officers. Just five of those were remaining by the next year, but their jobs didn't change, union representative Harry Nott told as it was preparing for arbitration.

While the overhaul, which was done without the need for City council approval, was made to respond to growing social issues, it's also been part of an effort to have bylaw officers recognized as peace officers in BC.

A City news release says the Attorney General Niki Sharma and the Minister for Public Safety Mike Farnworth recently voiced a "keen interest" in the aim for peace officer status. That status would provide bylaw officers with more law enforcement authority in the City, but it wasn't mentioned in the initial public announcements about the department change.

"We are grateful to put the arbitration behind us and continue serving the community," the City news release in response to the arbitrator's decision reads.

Trawin said it will take some time to review the decision, including its two pages of options Sims provided as they work toward a solution.

In addition to the arbitrator's decision, the collective agreement was set to expire this year. It's not clear how it will factor into the next negotiation.

The union has not provided a statement following the arbitrator's decision.

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