CHESTERMERE – City of Chestermere is once again at the epicenter of controversy, this time locking horns with the Canadian Union for Public Employees (CUPE) over recent staff dismissals and claims of union interference.
CUPE alleges that six city workers were wrongfully terminated “without cause” last month – four from the legislative services department and two from planning. “None of them want to return because they find the workplace is too toxic,” claimed CUPE spokesperson Lou Arab.
City director of corporate services, Kim Wallace, dismissed these allegations. Wallace argued that CUPE’s claims stem from their belief that Chestermere employees might soon decertify the union. “(CUPE) is making false claims because they are very concerned the employees of Chestermere are not interested in having a union represent them,” she stated in a recent email.
Wallace, who’s currently facing an assault charge from an unrelated January incident at the city hall, believes that the union and some “disgruntled staff” are targeting the city with baseless accusations. She revealed the city’s plans to approach the labour board, accusing the union of “negotiating in bad faith.”
The evolving tussle between the city and the union comes after workers voted to join CUPE in May 2022. However, contract negotiations remain pending. Arab believes the city is deliberately stalling the process. “Every time we get close to a deal, something crazy happens … and delays it a little,” he explained.
The discord doesn’t end there. Last week, the city moved to legally challenge a recent municipal inspection by the Alberta government. The report criticized Chestermere’s management, and the city is now seeking a judicial review to contest the investigation’s findings and the 12 directives issued by the province.
Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams weighed in on the city’s appeal. “An investigation was done, findings were released, requirements were imposed — all under the authority of the of the Government of Alberta. None of those will be reversed unless there’s evidence found by the court to require that,” she said.
Highlighting the uniqueness of the situation, Williams remarked, “This is a real outlier. We rarely see an investigation that imposes the kind of requirements that have happened here.” Given the court’s current focus on criminal cases, Williams expects Chestermere’s judicial review request could be protracted.
In the interim, Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver has met with city officials to discuss concerns about compliance with the provincial directives. Further discussions are slated for an upcoming council meeting.
This saga illustrates the complex tapestry of challenges Chestermere currently grapples with – from internal staffing disputes to larger governance issues. The path to resolution remains uncertain, with both the city and its critics holding their ground.