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TOWNSHIP OF BONFIELD – Mediation talks that began last Friday and continued today aimed at ending the Bonfield municipal strike that began August 1st, broke down tonight after Mayor Randall McLaren refused CUPE’s offer to send outstanding issues to arbitration by a neutral third party, a move that would have allowed municipal services to be restored quickly.

“CUPE made every attempt to reach a settlement, and indeed some progress was made last Friday, which prompted a second meeting today,” said CUPE Ontario Regional Director Linda Thurston-Neeley. “We were not able to come to an agreement today, but offered to send outstanding issues to an independent arbitrator so our members could go back to serving the good people of Bonfield – an offer the Mayor flatly rejected.”

The employer also indicated the Township is signing a six-month contract for snow removal and winter roads maintenance with a private operator, without an “out-clause” in the event of a settlement in the strike – a move that points to a protracted dispute. The strike began August 1st after the Mayor threatened to impose a contract riddled with concessions, including the threat of contracting out services.

“It seems the Mayor has no intention of settling this strike and allowing for the resumption of municipal services in Bonfield,” said Thurston-Neeley. “Signing a six-month contract binding the Township to privatized services for a long period is irresponsible, and shows a total disrespect for our members and the people of Bonfield.”

CUPE has filed unfair labour practice charges against the employer for previous incidents and heavy-handed tactics by the administration throughout the strike, and those matters are still before the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

“We remain committed to finding a solution that respects workers and the public, but Bonfield residents continue to be inconvenienced because this administration will not meet us half way,” added Thurston-Neeley. “We will continue to stand up for public services in Bonfield, and urge the community to impress upon the Mayor and Council the importance of finding a resolve to this crisis – instead of prolonging it.”