After almost five months picketing, retracing their steps back and forth along the sidewalks around the Best Western Seven Oaks on Albert Street, workers are going back on the job.
The strike ended this week after the dispute was taken to the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
“It’s not the longest strike in our history, but it’s certainly not the shortest,” said Norm Neault, president of the union’s local 1400.
Neault said in December the hotel presented its final offer, but it wasn’t something the union could accept.
“It wasn’t brought to the membership. The employer wanted us to, I guess, recommend it at one point, and we felt that we needed a better offer than that.”
So the union tendered strike notice, and Neault said they were locked out. Not all of the approximately 100 employees at the hotel who were under the union took to the picket line. Neault said there were about 28 consistently, and some joined them after a while.
Neault said it looked like things weren’t going well for the businesses, though he said he couldn’t confirm that.
“The business, I believe, was starting to suffer drastically and people that were working were starting to lose hours.”
Though in December, the hotel owner said the job action wasn’t impacting guest services.
Just recently the hotel owner took the offer made in December to the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board. Neault said the board put the offer to the union’s membership, and they voted in favour of accepting it. Neault said he was told this is the first time a union membership has ever accepted an offer taken to the board.
When asked if it was a disappointing outcome, Neault said “certainly, you would wonder why people would want to work under concessions.”
Neault doesn’t like the legislation which allowed the board to get in the middle of the dispute.
“It’s certainly legislation that weakens the ability for unions, if you will, to be able to negotiate with employers for that final offer.”
But he said it’s what people in the province voted for, so he can’t really argue with the people.
As of early Saturday morning, Neault didn’t know when workers would get to go back to work, though he hoped it would soon. Normally a back-to-work date is part of negotiations, but because of how the strike ended Neault said that wasn’t part of the discussion.
Neault said an assault charge is still pending against the owner is still before the Crown. He referred to a video that was posted online at the end of February that purported to show the hotel’s owner pushing a picketer.
The ownership of the hotel will be making their comments on Monday.