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Clock ticks down to strike as New Path employer refuses to negotiate

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Barrie – Collective bargaining talks between child treatment workers and their employer, New Path Youth and Family Services, broke off today after the employer refused, yet again, to negotiate. The clock continues to tick down to a strike deadline of July 14 at 12:01 a.m.

At issue is the employer’s refusal to table wage increases to the pay grid. New Path CEO Glen Newby is insisting that the workers accept $700 gift cards in lieu of pay raises.

“A $700 gift card is not a pay raise,” said Scott Stratton, chair of the bargaining team for Local 332 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). “I’m extremely disappointed by the ongoing refusal by Glen Newby to take these negotiations seriously.

“When you increase salaries by $700, we continue to earn that $700 every year,” he said. “If we just accept a gift card, then we lose $14,000 over the next 20 years.”

New Path employees include therapists, counsellors, and child and youth workers. Their collective agreement expired on March 31, 2017.

“We love the work we do,” Stratton continued. “We look on the kids who come to us for help as family members more than clients. But we’ve got families of our own, and we’ve got bills to pay. We’ve been falling behind the inflation curve for years, and gift cards just won’t cut it.”

No further negotiations are scheduled before the July 14 deadline, but the union bargaining team remains open to further talks aimed at heading off a labour disruption.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas criticized Newby and other employers who use gift cards as a way to cut wage costs.

“A gift card that doesn’t go on the pay grid is not a raise, it’s a spoonful of sugar designed to get workers to swallow the bitter pill of pay cuts.”

Thomas called on Newby to come back to the bargaining table with a serious offer.

“If there is a strike, the hardworking professionals at New Path will be on the picket line with the full support of 130,000 OPSEU members,” he affirmed. “Put your gift cards away, Mr. Newby. Your workers want to keep working. Families in Simcoe County need services. Do the right thing.”

For more information: Greg McVeigh, OPSEU staff representative, 705-238-0511