OPSEU/SEFPO Local 5117, representing 70 workers at Black Creek Community Health Centre, has, despite unacceptable behavior and anti-union employer tactics, succeeded in reaching a tentative agreement following a prolonged six-week strike.
Local 5117’s members were forced to strike on June 12 after months of failed bargaining talks over wage increases, respect and transparency. During their six-week strike, Black Creek’s Executive Director Cheryl Prescod repeatedly prolonged the strike by stalling talks, taking long absences from the bargaining table, and bargaining in bad faith. The union filed two unfair labour practice complaints with the Ontario Labour Relations Board as a result.
“This was a long, hard-fought battle with an employer who made this strike unnecessarily long,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “I’d like to congratulate the bargaining team for their dedication and perseverance during extremely difficult negotiations.”
The tentative agreement, which is almost identical to the proposal put forth by OPSEU/SEFPO on July 2, was finally reached on July 20 after a two-day session of mediation at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Local 5117’s contract expired more than a year ago.
“It’s egregious that the Executive Director of a community health centre, which promotes mental health, would treat her own employees and their mental health with such blatant disrespect and disregard,” said Thomas. “Local 5117’s members came together, stood up for themselves, and showed their boss their collective strength. This tentative agreement is a victory for every single worker at Black Creek. I couldn’t be more proud of their commitment and tenacity.”
The bargaining team will be recommending that members accept the tentative agreement and a ratification vote will take place on July 21. Details of the agreement will be released following the ratification vote.
“Local 5117’s members are some of the most courageous and passionate community health care workers in the province,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “Their employer made dirty, underhanded moves during bargaining, but these workers did not back down. I’m proud of what they have accomplished in this fight and I truly hope the Minister of Health has a close look at the behaviour of this agency, and accounts appropriately for the nearly half a million taxpayer dollars needlessly diverted from front-line heroes’ wages.”
The members of Local 5117 work in a variety of front line and support positions at the community health centre. The community health care they provide is vital to the community, which faces unemployment, low income, and immigration challenges. The residents include racialized people and non-English speaking immigrants, many of whom have precarious immigration status and no supplemental health insurance.
“This strike has been difficult to say the least, but it’s important that our members are treated with dignity and respect for the value we offer,” said OPSEU/SEFPO Local 5117 President and Bargaining Team Chair, Mahnaz Pourahmadi. “We’re extremely grateful that we were finally able to reach a tentative agreement. We’ll be encouraging all members to accept this agreement, so we can return to providing care for our community.”