Edmonton·CBC Explains

About 5,000 Edmonton city workers could strike or be locked out. Here's how it could affect you

The City of Edmonton and a union representing thousands of its employees are at an impasse in collective bargaining, leaving the potential for a strike or a lockout. CBC News analyzed civic union job descriptions to see which services could be affected.

DATS employees would still work if a strike occurred: union

An aerial view of Edmonton city hall in the winter: a building with a glass triangle on top, and a snowy plaza in front.
The vast majority of Civic Services Union 52 members recently voted for a strike mandate, as collective bargaining with the City of Edmonton has reached an impasse. (David Bajer/CBC)

The City of Edmonton and a union representing thousands of its employees are at an impasse in collective bargaining, leaving the potential for a strike or a lockout.

Most Civic Service Union (CSU) 52 members — various city technical, professional, administrative and clerical staff — recently voted for a strike mandate. On Friday, union president Lanny Chudyk told CBC News the votes were a defensive tactic, which could protect workers if the city locked them out.

If a strike occurs, however, the expectation would be that no one crosses the line, Chudyk said, in which case some city services would be affected.

"I don't believe it would be enough to allow city operations to run smoothly," he said.

The city's latest offer, which is retroactive, would provide a 7.25-per-cent wage increase from 2021 through 2025. The offer also includes a commitment to hybrid work and "other items of benefit," said chief people officer Michelle Plouffe in a statement sent from city spokesperson Charity Dyke.

The city was disappointed in the strike vote, Plouffe added.

The city has applied to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for an employer proposal vote, which would allow workers to vote directly on the city's latest offer. The city is working with the board on the application and expects a confirmed vote date soon, Dyke said. A majority in favour would result in a new collective agreement.

The union won't strike before the board decides on the application — or a vote occurs, Chudyk said.

The city doesn't yet know specifically which services or facilities would be affected by a job action, as they can take "many forms," Dyke said. But the city has contingency plans in place for various scenarios, which aim to limit the impacts of any disruption.

LISTEN | Labour trouble brewing at Edmonton city hall: 
<p>City services could be disrupted as a labour dispute between the city and its unionized workers ratchets up. The union representing about 5,000 city workers have voted in favor of a strike mandate. CBC's Wallis Snowdon helped provide some insight into this labour dispute.</p>

About 5,000 city workers are affected by the collective bargaining, the city has previously said.

CBC News analyzed some of the publicly available job descriptions, revealing CSU members serve throughout the municipal government and its agencies, such as law and bylaw enforcement, IT, animal control, building inspection and permitting and 311.

These are a few of the services that could be affected if a work stoppage occurs.

911 operators

The people who answer emergency calls within the city, directing people to the appropriate emergency service, would be off the job.

Operators have to gather information from callers to figure out whether police, ambulance or emergency response would be best to respond to a scene, then forward callers to those agencies. Operators sometimes provide callers with non-emergency phone numbers.

Employees who manage call centres and public services would also be off the job.

Recreation centres

Employees involved in recreational facilities and programming fall under the union's umbrella.

Job action would remove the attendants who work the front desks and provide general information to the public, such as hours of operation. Those who develop leisure programming, as well as those who lead the activities and help train others, would be off the job as well.

Libraries

There are a variety of positions at libraries across Edmonton that involve working with the public, including pages and library assistants who are CSU members, but fall under a separate collective agreement. Some librarians could also be off the job.

Pages do things like directing customers, handling and maintaining a library's materials and keeping a branch tidy.

Library assistants provide customer service in myriad ways, including answering questions, placing and retrieving holds and handling memberships. They are in charge of library programs, tours and community outreach activities, too. Like pages, they also have to help with library materials and maintaining their branch's collection.

There are City of Edmonton librarians — who are separate from the Edmonton Public Library — who run civic resource centres. They would also be off the job.

Police

Local police officers are represented by the Edmonton Police Association, but some Edmonton Police Service (EPS) employees are within the civic union's scope, according to the city's website.

They include clerical staff who process police reports, technicians who help run criminal background checks and identify accused persons and other key EPS personnel.

Criminal intelligence and firearms and ballistics analysts, for example, are CSU members even though they work exclusively with EPS. Any of the EPS employees who fall under the CSU could be subject to job action. 

A brick sign with blue letting.
Some Edmonton Police Service employees may be off the job if a strike or lockout occurs, according to job descriptions on the City of Edmonton's website. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Criminal intelligence analysts examine and visualize trends, then present the information internally. They may produce information for the public, as well as court actions, such as trials, hearings and requests for warrants.

Firearms and ballistics analysts, meanwhile, are in charge of all aspects of police firearm training. They also often attend crime scenes to document them or help investigators, and eventually examine evidence to recreate a shooting.

Police armourers inspect and maintain all service guns, keep inventory, reload ammunition for training and test new or seized guns.

Some of the EPS employees, such as the analysts, may be needed for expert testimony in court.

DATS employees would still serve: union

The only union members who would be exempt from striking are those involved with Edmonton's dedicated accessible transit service (DATS), a door-to-door service for those who cannot use regular transit.

The city and union negotiated a letter of understanding to keep that service running during a work stoppage, Chudyk said.

The union considered that riders could call taxis or ride shares, he said, but recognized those vehicles might not be able to accommodate an individual's specialized equipment that a bus otherwise could.

Most Edmonton transit employees are members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which is not directly involved in the current labour dispute between CSU and the city.

There are thousands of other city workers who are not involved in the current labour dispute, meaning many services like snow clearing and garbage collection should continue as normal. 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story misidentified the frontline positions at Edmonton libraries that would be affected by a work stoppage. It also incorrectly described the duties of Edmonton Public Library librarians.
    Feb 24, 2024 1:15 PM MT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Frew is a CBC Edmonton reporter, who specializes in producing data-driven stories. Hailing from Newfoundland and Labrador, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has previously worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. You can reach him at nick.frew@cbc.ca.

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