Long strike at Richmond Olympic Oval averted

The exterior of the Richmond Olympic Oval. - Richmond Review file photo
The exterior of the Richmond Olympic Oval.
— image credit: Richmond Review file photo

Unionized workers at the Richmond Olympic Oval held a brief strike this week on the eve of a Yonex Canada Open 2012 badminton tournament.

Pickets went up late Monday, as 29 engineers and building service workers walked off the job. By Tuesday night, pickets came down after a tentative deal was reached between the Richmond Olympic Oval Corporation and International Union of Operating Engineers, local 882.

“It needs to be ratified by both sides, but that’s fully expected,” said oval spokesperson Aran Kay Thursday.

Union spokesperson Saundra Taylor said the workers were certified April 2011, but hadn’t been able to come to terms with the oval corporation for a contract.

With bargaining repeatedly stalling, Taylor organized a strategic strike vote—ahead of an international tournament—and won 100 per cent support from members.

“It was the only clout I had at the time, and let me tell you that was the shortest picket line in history since I’ve been in the labour movement,” said Taylor.

The Yonex Canada Open is attracting some of the world’s best badminton players from 35 countries, making it one of the largest international tournaments since the 2010 Winter Games.

Workers will vote on the contract Monday, July 16. Taylor said she expects workers to accept the three-year deal, which takes them through to June 2015.

The threat of contracting out was a key issue, said Taylor, who noted the contract offers job security, improved sick time and better wages.

Workers didn’t, however, achieve their goal of wage parity with city employees. Taylor declined to say what  wage gains were made, only noting the oval corporation had a limit of six per cent over three years.

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