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50 workers picket to get back to bargaining table, OPSEU calls for Ministry review

50 workers picket to get back to bargaining table, OPSEU calls for Ministry review

We the North
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Bayshore Broadcasting: Participation Lodge Pickets

Original story

By  Manny Paiva

The 50 striking workers at Participation Lodge took their fight to the streets of Owen Sound.

They picketed at 10th Street and 3rd Avenue West on Wednesday afternoon to call on the board to get back to the negotiating table.

OPSEU Vice President and Treasurer Eddie Almeida says they asked the board through a mediator to negotiate last Friday before striking on Saturday.

But he claims they were told the last offer from Participation Lodge was the final offer.

That offer included a roughly 1.7 per cent wage hike for employees who earn between $17.50 and $25.70 an hour.

Almeida says this strike is more than just about wages — he says it"s about the benefits for the workers who have been without a contract for 18 months.

OPSEU has now called on the Ministry of Community and Social Services to audit the books at Participation Lodge.

The union maintains 45 per cent of the budget is earmarked for the wages of 11 managers who are in charge of 50 staff.

Of the 3.9 million dollar budget, OPSEU also claims 700 thousand dollars is listed as miscellaneous expenses.

Almeida says the employees want to go back to work and care for the clients they have built relationships with — but they want a fair share of the resources.

Managers and volunteers are now staying at Participation Lodge to care for more than 40 clients.

But OPSEU claims they have been told replacement workers have been hired to work two weeks straight, and they are not able to leave the building.

That has not been confirmed by Participation Lodge.

The Liberal government meanwhile has introduced proposed legislation that includes a wage freeze for almost half a million public sector workers.

The bill would covers workers at hospitals, colleges, hydro companies and long-term care homes — but not police or firefighters.

Almeida says if Premier Dalton McGuinty wants a war — they will give him one — but they are not the ones choosing it.