Lantzville council seeks help from labour relations

NANAIMO – Lantzville wants into the Labour Relations Board of B.C.'s Relationship Enhancement Program.

Lantzville politicians want relationship help.

The district’s trio of last-remaining politicians aims to hire the Labour Relations Board of B.C. to address internal challenges.

A seven-member council agreed in April to hire consultants to craft a code of conduct and investigate the state of relations, following concerns of council meeting decorum in a staff memo, and personnel issues between Canadian Union of Public Employees members and management.

Council planned to ask the B.C. Office of the Inspector of Municipalities for help listing potential consultant candidates.

More than a month later, the municipality has seen four councillors resign and two senior managers quit. The province has made it a priority for council to create a plan that uses independent professional assistance and addresses issues that led to resignations.

Mayor Colin Haime, who pitched the Labour Relations Board’s Relationship Enhancement Program at an open meeting May 27, said consultants suggested by the Office of the Inspector of Municipalities didn’t have the expertise to deal with unions and if those people were engaged, the district would have to hire someone else to handle management and CUPE challenges.

The labour board expertise is broader and its process parallels the one council had considered, according to Haime, who said it would cost $500 a day, plus expenses.

No council members were available for comment before press time, but in a letter to residents two days after the meeting, the mayor said council has moved to consult with all parties involved, including senior staff and CUPE, on the acceptability of using the enhancement program to address challenges and get to the truth.

CUPE is on board.

“The very title of relationship enhancement would indicate there’s a problem with the relationship,” said Blaine Gurrie, CUPE 401 president. “When relationship problems get in the way of municipal governments, or any organization for that matter, you need to address what’s causing that and then find solutions … so people can get back to doing what they are actually there to do.”

Gurrie wouldn’t comment on anything specific tied to personnel issues between Lantzville district staff and management, but said the union speculates some of the tension between council and management may have spilled into the workforce.

The goal of mediation isn’t to find blame, but doing what needs to be done to move forward, he said.

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