What sounds sweet to locked-out workers is causing headaches for some Burnaby residents.
Car horns, cheers of support and mood-enhancing music is often the motivational fuel behind any picket line. But in the case of the tow truck dispatchers locked out by the British Columbia Automobile Association, that picket line is close to a residential building, South Legacy Tower.
Burnaby council has received three letters – two from the same person – from residents of 5611 Goring St. about the cacophony caused by blaring car horns and noise from the picket line itself.
“Goring is a very busy street and the cars honking go on all day, almost non-stop. The worst is the large trucks with very loud horns, many of them air horns,” James Tindle wrote council in June. “It is so noisy that residents cannot open their windows despite the extreme heat we are experiencing. With the windows completely closed, we are basically prisoners in our own homes, through no fault of our own.”
Tindle wrote again at the beginning of August, stating that the horn honking begins as early as 5 a.m. and continues into the evening.
Burnaby RCMP came to Tindle’s apartment in June, and also spoke with the members of COPE Local 378 on the picket line about the noise issue, according to Tindle’s letter. But he wants the RCMP to enforce the city’s bylaw regarding when to operate a horn.
Another resident of the building, Rick Hirata, wrote to council in August, stating he understood the picketers have rights, but added his quality of life was being affected.
“I hope council members understand what this is like,” he wrote. “Honking is going on all day, all night and every day, including air horns from buses, fire trucks and semi-trailers.”
City staff noted on the letters that the Burnaby RCMP had received multiple complaints about the noise issue, and that a member of the community response team had been assigned to the file.
“While enforcement is an option, the initial approach will be one of education and awareness of all involved,” states the note, which was added to the letters in council’s correspondence packages.
Burnaby RCMP did not respond to requests for information about the issue before press time.
David Black, president of COPE 378, said those on the picket line are doing what they can to minimize the noise but added they are only there due to the lockout.
“We’ve had one person yelling at us to go back to work, and that’s sort of ironic, since it’s a lockout and there’s nothing our members there would rather have than go back to work,” Black told the NOW.
Those on the picket lines try to keep it down in the evenings and overnight, he added.
“We spent an extra $1,000 to get an especially quiet generator,” he said, adding it’s telling that no one has complained about noise from the generator. “We’re glad that we did that, to be respectful of the neighbours.”
Despite the complaints, Black says the union has had a lot of support from the neighbourhood, particularly those living in the building.
“There’s been many people out of that building, especially when it was hot out, bringing cool drinks for our people, offering words of support,” he said. “There’s also been people yelling support from the balconies, and yelling at people crossing the picket lines.”
According to Black, negotiations have stalled since meetings between the company and union took place in August.
BCAA says there is nothing it can do about the noise and advises those affected to contact the city and authorities about the issue.
“We are aware of noise and disruption complaints from local residents and have every sympathy. Unfortunately, our hands are tied as this is union activity and beyond our control,” Brenda Lowden, BCAA senior vice-president and chief people officer, said in a statement emailed to the NOW. “The City and law enforcement respond to and investigate noise and disruptive activity on city property and in residential areas. We continue to encourage the residents to call the City of Burnaby and proper authorities regarding the noise or disruptive activities caused by the unionized employees.”
The dispatchers’ contract expired last September. The union issued strike notice on May 29, and shortly after that, tensions between the two parties grew. The company locked out approximately 70 employees on June 8. The primary issue is compensation.