Members of the United Association Local 721 union in Prince Edward Island went on strike last week after being unable to reach a new agreement with their employers over wages and benefits.

The union, which represents more than 130 plumbers, pipefitters and welders in PEI, began negotiations with four employers in December. Its previous contract expired on Feb. 28.

In addition to seeking wage increases for its members of $5.35 over three years, the union is requesting mental-health benefits, supplemental maternity leave and stress leave. It has already negotiated disability coverage into the new contract, according to Gerry MacDonald, Local 721’s business manager and the lead negotiator.

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The wage increase is the biggest issue, says Nathan Dougan, a spokesman for the union. “We’re behind every other plumbing local in Canada. We’re the lowest paid. All we want to do is catch up with the rest of the country. We put in a very reasonable offer.”

The union previously asked for a 15 per cent wage increase over three years, says MacDonald. The employers countered with a $3 increase for everyone, which the union unanimously voted down, he says.

The employers have since gone silent and haven’t yet responded to the union’s most recent proposal, according to MacDonald.

Local 721 members are picketing in three locations where they’re contracted to work to make sure no one crosses the line while they’re striking.

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