More than 600 frontline workers at recently merged Canadian Mental Health Association offices in Southwest Ontario are the newest members of OPSEU/SEFPO. During a vote in late September, four out of five workers at CMHA Thames Valley Addiction and Mental Health Services (TVAMHS) voted yes to OPSEU/SEFPO.
“So many people are struggling these days, but they’re able to keep going because of the support and services offered by people like our hundreds of new members in Southwestern Ontario,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick. “We’re so proud they’ve voted so strongly to join us, and we promise that – together – we’ll keep pushing for more and better mental health services.”
TVAMHS was formed when CMHA merged its workplaces in Oxford County, Elgin County, Thames Valley, and Middlesex. The frontline workers in Oxford and Elgin were already OPSEU/SEFPO members in Local 133, but they were only about 20 per cent of the merged operation. The roughly 500 at Thames Valley or Middlesex were not unionized before the merger triggered a union vote for them.
“I talked to a lot of the non-union workers and kept hearing the same things over and over: low pay, dangerous understaffing and little concern for work-life-balance were burning them out fast,” said Ed Arvelin, a mental health workers from Thunder Bay who is the chair of the OPSEU/SEFPO Mental Health and Addictions division. “Now that they’ve joined with more than 8,000 other mental health workers in OPSEU/SEFPO, we’ll help make sure they have the wages and working conditions they need to provide the care their communities deserve.”
Now that they’ve voted to join, OPSEU/SEFPO staff and leadership will ensure the new members get training, support, and guidance as they prepare to negotiate their first contract.
“This is such a great day for these workers and for the people they support,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Laurie Nancekivell. “They’ve now got a real voice in their workplace, and the real work can begin. We’ll make sure they have everything they need to organize themselves into a strong local that goes into bargaining with solid demands and powerful solidarity.”