Strike at Sarnia library and gallery over; back to business Friday

The Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery in Sarnia and the library will reopen Friday.

The Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery in Sarnia and the library will reopen Friday.

Sarnia’s library and art gallery will be back in business Friday.

Lambton County and members of Local 65 of the Communications Energy and Paperworkers’ Union have ratified a new three-year deal after five days of labour unrest.

Last Friday, the county imposed a four-year contract on the workers at the Sarnia Library and the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery. It gave workers an immediate increase of one percent and one percent in each of the next three years and ended the payout of sick days on retirement. Officials said the county could either lock the workers out or impose a deal and it chose the more unusual option.

Union officials said that forced their hand and they walked off the job Saturday morning saying the key issue of work environment had not been addressed.

But after two days of negotiations, the county and CEP reached an agreement. It includes salary increases of 1.25 percent for 2013, 1 one percent in 2014, 1.5 percent in 2015 and 1.5 percent in 2016, the end of the entitlement to pay-out of sick pay upon retirement as well as some amendments to terms surrounding hours of work and accumulation of sick pay.

But key for the union was the agreement to form a labour/management committee to deal with what union head Glen Sonier has called workplace bullying.

“The key issue of employment respect has been put front and center and I am pleased that this bargaining session and the new collective agreement makes every attempt to satisfy those desires,” says Sonier in a news release. “I look forward to working with the county to make a better workplace. This contract addresses the responsibilities that both parties have to the public and the employees.”

David Cribbs, manager of corporate services agrees. “The parties brought some valuable and creative ideas to the bargaining table, particularly with respect to the establishment of a joint committee of the union and management to promote cooperation and dialogue, as well as the utilization of the Ministry of Labour’s Relationship Building Program”, says Cribbs in the joint statement.  “These aspects of the collective agreement should help us work better together in the future.”

The doors to the library and the gallery are expected to open as usual Friday.

– Heather Wright