Region of Queens and public works staff reach a deal

A photo of the public works in Liverpool.
Public works in Liverpool.
Ed Halverson - QCCR - LiverpoolNS | 05-08-2020

Engineering and public works employees have agreed to a new four-year contract with the Region of Queens.

Council ratified the deal at their last regular council meeting on July 28.

Workers will receive a two percent hourly-wage increase in each of the next four years, retroactive to April 1.

Materials recovery facility sorters who were on the lower end of the pay scale will also receive a one-time 50 cent increase in their hourly rate.

The workers are represented by Local 1928 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEM).

The union’s business manager Jim Sponagle says his membership is pleased with the outcome.

“My position as business manager is not to lose what you have,” says Sponagle. “If you can build on a collective agreement and get a modest increase or a fair increase, you’ve done your job. I think we’ve done that.”

The 24 full-time and 15 temporary engineering and public works department employees are responsible for materials recovery, solid waste management, water and sewage treatment, capital works, as well as the streets in Liverpool, sidewalks, storm water and other municipal parks and properties throughout Queens County.

Twenty-eight of the 32 voting members cast their ballot to approve the agreement, an overwhelming show of support.

Region of Queens mayor David Dagley is pleased to say the municipal workers are valuable assets in the community.

Dagley says the province requires the municipality to put their work out to tender, and their works department always comes out on top.

“Traditionally, our cost of doing it internally with our own crews and our own equipment comes in 30 percent cheaper than a tendered cost. So we are saving taxpayers dollars and providing quality work,” says Dagley.

But the mayor says being able to use municipal employees is about more than just dollars and cents.

“They’re local people that live here, and have a job here and they spend their money here. It’s good for all in Queens,” says Dagley.

Negotiations began in March and were concluded with the help of a conciliator in June.

In addition to the to the pay raises, Sponagle says his members will also see a $50 per year top-up to buy protective work boots, and meal allowances provided when working overtime will increase from $11 to $15.

Employees can bank any overtime hours at a rate of one and a half times the actually extra hours worked.

In this latest contract, the amount of time they can bank has risen from 40 hours to 60.

According to Sponagle, one of the most important elements of the deal was reached before contract negotiations even got underway.

The union and municipality agreed the workers pension plan would be migrated away from the Region of Queens defined pension plan and roll into the province’s Public Service Superannuation Plan.

Sponagle says the union did their homework and the move made sense for everyone.

“Market changes makes significant impacts to a small plan where a multi-billion dollar plan, it doesn’t, it makes a ripple,” says Sponagle.

He says they also realigned how overtime was awarded to ensure full-time employees were offered the hours ahead of temporary workers.

Sponagle says his members signed a fair deal.

Mayor Dagley says the municipality is also pleased with how negotiations turned out.

“What we have here is an agreement that both parties can live with,” says the mayor. “There are good increases for the employees and cost-savings, of course, for the Region of Queens. It’s a good agreement.”

Reported by Ed Halverson 
Twitter: @edwardhalverson