By Robert Devet
335 workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, have been walking the picket line to defend their pension plan and wages since May 19.
They have been slowing down, but not blocking, cars and trucks going in or out at all ten Halifax Water facilities.
Stephen MacRae was legally picketing the Mill Cove facility when the RST truck driver, after initially missing the entrance, turned into the road to the plant, says Dave Dort, president of CUPE Local 227.
“He either failed to recognize or just ignored the two people walking the picket line outside the entrance. That’s when he ran into one of those guys,” Dort says.
MacRae is being assessed to determine whether he needs surgery on his arm and wrist. He intends to press charges against the driver, RST and Irving, CUPE reports.
He has also contacted his lawyer and will be pursuing legal action against Halifax Water and the security company that was on site at the time of the incident and stood by as it happened, a CUPE press release states.
In a Chronicle Herald story on the accident, James Campbell, spokesperson for Halifax Water, is said to question “why unionized workers would stand in front of a moving transfer truck, especially if they claim they aren’t blocking access to Halifax Water facilities.”
Meanwhile, workers believe that untreated sewage has been released into the harbour because of pressures caused by the recent heavy rains.
Dort, who has worked in the Bedford treatment plant for 24 years, definitely thinks so.
“We could tell the other day at the Dartmouth plant,” says Dort. “We could see the flow bypassing out in the harbour.”
“Those plants are designed for certain levels, and if you don’t have sufficient staff to stay on top of things you will run into some problems. I think that’s where we are at,” he says.
He refers to a recent news report about a paddleboarder complaining of floatables and sewage in the harbour.
“(Halifax Water) will say it is treated, because it has primary treatment, but that doesn’t remove all these floatables,” Dort says.
Meanwhile, it looks like similar pension pressures may be exerted on at least one group of Halifax employees.
Workers on the picket line say that City Hall has informed the Halifax Regional Police Association that its pension plan will be subject to similar changes once its contract negotiations start.
Dort has heard the same thing, and it confirms his suspicions that the Halifax Water pension changes are part of a larger plan to have all Halifax employees surrender major pension benefits.
Dort believes that the union’s focus must be on Mayor Mike Savage, City Councilors Russell Walker, David Hendsbee and Barry Dalrymple, and Halifax’ Chief Administrative Officer Richard Butts, who are all members of the Halifax Water Board of Governors.
To that end CUPE is calling for a rally on June 16 at 5:15 PM, at the Grand Parade in front of Halifax City Hall, Dort says.
This story was first published by the Halifax Media Co-op