Nanaimo council asks union for extension on parking plan

NANAIMO – City councillors want to include parking services in core review.

Nanaimo city politicians want more time to consider in-house parking, but the union isn’t convinced it wants to give it.

The City of Nanaimo will appeal to the Canadian Union of Public Employees for an extension on an in-house parking trial, with politicians not yet ready to commit to permanent employees.

But Blaine Gurrie, president of CUPE local 401, told the News Bulletin in an e-mail that council has had three years to evaluate the in-house parking option and by all measures it’s been successful. The union doesn’t see the need to add a fourth year of evaluation to the decision.

For the past three years, the city has transitioned to a new in-house parking model under an agreement with CUPE. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to create a service that combines enforcement and security, creates ambassadors and allows discretion on ticketing. Six new full-time positions, including a parking manager, now make up the parking department which includes an adjudication system for disputes and altered parking rates.

In December, the parking trial will expire, with new protection for the department’s jobs and no ability to contract out the service if it causes layoffs. The city has 60 day to back out of the letter of understanding with CUPE and go back to a third-party contractor, but councillors are now seeking an extension. Some politicians want more time to consider the function in a core review, voting Monday to postpone a motion to move ahead with in-house parking so staff members can talk to the union about extending the interim contract.

Coun. Jerry Hong wanted another year extension to gather information and prove the model is successful as well as to go through the core-review process. He also pointed out that if council decides to get rid of this program it’s easier when the union is not involved.

Coun. Gord Fuller called the in-house parking service a core-review issue and while he supported keeping it in the interim, he wants to see the model revisited along with a parking-related contract with Robbins Parking.

“We may decide we don’t want to keep it and then we can toss it to Robbins,” he said.

The only councillor opposed to postponing a decision on in-house parking was Ian Thorpe, who made the motion to move ahead.

“We are getting tremendous bang for our buck out of it. I like the ambassadorial aspect of it, I like the flexibility that it gives us, I like the multi-tasking we can get from our employees,” he said after proposing to continue with in-house parking services and administration and allow the letter with CUPE to expire.  “For the time being I don’t consider this a core review problem.”

A report is expected back to council this month. Gurrie and senior management are expected to meet later this week and the union president said he’ll listen to whatever is presented.

“The workers in these positions have waited a long time for a resolution of this issue and we think it should be an easy decision based on the reports we have seen,” he wrote in an e-mail.