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VIDEO: Matheson mayor tells locked out staff to 'start looking' for other work

“His approach, it leads me to question his overall dedication to the welfare of the whole community,' says union rep

A video of a local mayor suggesting municipal workers who have been locked out by the township seek new employment has been leaked.

The video of Black River-Matheson’s Mayor Doug Bender was taken by one of the CUPE Local 1490 workers and was mentioned in a release put out by the union on Wednesday (Nov. 15).

“Sorry you’s guys are losing all your credibility and that’s all I’m going to say,” says Bender at the start of the video. 

One of the workers not on camera asks if there's been any progress, to which Bender responds that they're "getting closer and closer to you being pretty hungry."

The workers respond by saying that they're fine and there's lots of work out there.

“Good, start looking for it,” responded Bender.

TimminsToday reached out to Bender regarding the video and he declined to comment.

Tom Pullen, a public works equipment operator as well as a union trustee and a member of the bargaining committee, said he wasn’t present when the video was taken, but was shown it the day after it happened. He said Bender was either leaving or going to town hall when it was taken a couple of weeks ago.

“That's pretty troubling for the mayor to come out and say those comments and his aggression towards the workers. Suggesting that we should get new jobs is not really addressing the root of the problem here. It’s definitely counterproductive to resolving the issue that’s currently at hand,” Pullen said.

“His approach, it leads me to question his overall dedication to the welfare of the whole community.”

The township and CUPE Local 1490 members have been negotiating a new contract since March and the parties were in a legal position for a strike or lockout on Oct. 15., which ultimately resulted in a lockout situation.

Fourteen full-time municipal workers are affected by the labour dispute and while the two sides have reached agreements on some items, a two-tiered wage system is still the union members’ main concern.

Pullen said he didn’t think the township would react the way they have and said there have been unpleasant encounters with management as well. However, other council members have seemed to have more of a positive attitude, he said.

“There was more said than what was in that video as well,” he said.

Pullen said the mayor’s actions aren’t stopping them from wanting to make a deal.

“We definitely want to negotiate. We want to make a deal. We want to get back to doing what we do and do what we need to do to help with this community,” he said.

In terms of any updates regarding negotiations, there really aren’t any. Pullen said the offer from the municipality is still not clear enough for them to accept it and also noted there is some math that “just doesn’t add up.”

“We’re still standing strong and firm in our commitment to opposing two-tier wages. We’re staying strong. We’re not backing down,” he said.

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Union members are grateful for the solidarity and encouragement they have received from the community, Pullen said.

“People are still always stopping by and seeing us and they're encouraging us and it's definitely been really nice to see. It keeps us determined to seek a fair resolution that benefits both us, the workers, and the community as well,” he said.

“We had some bad weather come in last week and the roads would have been in a lot better shape if we were there, I can say that for sure. It's hard for me to watch the community have to suffer like this. I don't know what their main motive is.”

Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Marissa Lentz covers civic issues along the Highway 11 corridor under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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