Strike Is Over

By John Swartz


The strike by 58 City of Orillia employees of the environment and infrastructure services  group, members of International Brotherhood of Electrical workers Local 636 is over. The union members ratified a new contract Saturday morning.

“The membership voted to accept,” said IBEW Local 636 business manager Tim Pitts. “It was a majority that voted yes, but it wasn’t a landslide.” The vote to go on strike was 56 yes out of 58 union members.

Mayor Steve Clarke was waiting by the phone for news of the voting result.

“Yes I was certainly going to be available for any kind of communication,” Clarke said. “I’ve very glad. I’m glad to have the staff back on the job. With everything else we and others have going on right now, allowing to things to get back to normal is necessary for everybody for a number of reasons,”

All details of the contract improvements for a 4 year deal have not been released yet. The new contract is retroactive to October 1, 2020, and ends September 30, 2024.

“There was certainly a cost of living increase in year one of 1.65% and 1.5 in subsequent years. The other details will come out in the next little while,” said Clarke.

There were several issues employees had, one of which was pay rates in Orillia are below surrounding townships and many employees were leaving for higher pay. The City is still behind, but both sides say wages are closer than they were.

“The result of this, we believe, there is an equitable employment situation for these employees,” said Clarke.

“We’ll still be below,” said Pitts. The drain of trained staff to other municipalities may be stemmed a bit. “I think it should be lessened to honest with you, but it’s hard to say. It depends on where they are at in life and what opportunities they have.”

There was considerable dissatisfaction with the working relationship between employees and front line supervision. Pitts said some progress was made on those counts.

“There will be procedures in place to smooth that out. Upper management was all for that,” said Pitts.

Orillia council itself was not involved with negotiations, though they did have a directional role to play.

“There was no recent meeting by council about the strike. The negotiating team from the City needs the blessing of council so they did come with recommendations and we had that discussion and council had to approve the parameters going forward. When there was news during the strike council received a briefing,” said Clarke.

Pitts works with 14 locals and he’s not done coming to Orillia.

“I’ll be on Orillia because I’ve got two more contracts with the City to negotiate and we’re currently in negotiations with Empower Simcoe as well (community services group homes, PSWs),” said Pitts. “We’re half way through the parks and recreation group and we are waiting to start clerical/technical which is out of City Hall. We haven’t set any dates yet with the strike and the parks and rec (negotiations happening). I’m hoping I’ll get some dates soon.”

Clarke did not have any prognosis about the remaining negotiations.

“At the moment I don’t know. I don’t know how equitable the other situations are, but certainly I look forward to learning more about how they might be similar and how they might be different.”

Staff will going back to work for the overnight shift Monday evening and the rest Tuesday morning.

“These things are not easy, they are not fun, it can be very difficult and I commend the union and the union reps and the City managers for working their way through this because when it’s all said and done we all have to work together and take care of each other,” said Clarke.

“We’re just glad to be going back to work and provide a good service for the City and show the people our people are worth every dime,” said Pitts.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)


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