Labour expert says it will be hard for union and city to reject an agreement based on mediator's recommendations

On September 24, private mediator Brian Foley received written and verbal submissions from the bargaining committee of CUPE Local 15, who represent striking inside Vancouver civic workers.

Foley was scheduled to follow that up by going through the same process with negotiators for outside workers belonging to CUPE Local 1004 and for city management.

Based on a recent CUPE 15 bulletin, Foley may release his recommendations to end the labour disputes in the week before Thanksgiving. All parties have agreed to submit those recommendations to a vote by their respective camps.

Labour relations expert Mark Thompson believes that once Foley makes his proposals available, it will be difficult for the unions and city hall to continue delaying a settlement.

"I don’t see why it should go on past next week," Thompson said in a phone interview before the Georgia Straight went to press on September 26.

A former professor in UBC’s Sauder School of Business, Thompson noted that public opinion on the strike is split down the middle, so neither side can claim the support of a majority of Vancouver’s citizens.

"Mostly the public says ”˜We want this over with,’" he said. "You know, ”˜[A] plague on both your houses, get this over with.' Everybody’s tired of it."

A media blackout is in place until Foley makes his recommendations.

Thompson observed that there are no disagreements about major items on the negotiating table, such as the 17.5 percent wage increase and the contract’s five-year term.

These are the same provisions negotiated in other civic bargaining agreements across the Lower Mainland.

The Vancouver Public Library and striking members of CUPE Local 391 agreed to engage the services of mediator Debbie Cameron for mediated talks, which began September 17.

"The purpose of this kind of process is essentially for public pressure," Thompson said, referring to how mediation could resolve the civic strike. "The parties have to deal with that. People would see his [Foley’s] recommendations and they’d say, ”˜Gee, why are we having a strike?."