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CMHA Cochrane-Timiskaming: another pay equity victory

Timmins – Some 170 workers with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Cochrane-Timiskaming will receive pay equity adjustments – 23 years after a pay equity plan was first negotiated in 1994.

The settlement comes just a month after Local 386 at Community Living Newmarket/Aurora received retroactive pay equity payments going back to 2010. OPSEU Local 631 president Maggie Wakeford said it was great news for her members, whom she led into the union in 2008.

"One reason I decided to get the branch unionized was pay equity. The payments just stopped in 2005, when our past CEO left the branch. In 2008, the current CEO got wind that I was trying to unionize, and announced he was looking into pay equity adjustments. However, when our local unionized, he said he had to ‘revisit and evaluate’ the existing plan – and basically blamed the union.

“So with a new contract coming up, we simply refused to bargain until the pay equity issue had been settled once and for all,” Wakeford continued. “With their back against the wall, the employer finally had to get serious on pay equity.”

The employer owes workers approximately $1.6 million in retroactive pay equity. A first payment of $1,164,333 will be paid out by September 30, 2017. The remaining adjustments will be made in equal instalments in May 2018 and May 2019.

The news is not all good, however. Wakeford pointed out that the employer is now looking to offload their Violence Against Women program – a 32-year-old initiative that includes a shelter in Matheson called Tranquility House and 12 staff.

“The employer says domestic abuse is not part of our core business,” said Wakeford. “But every mental health professional knows that domestic abuse is closely linked to mental health issues. It’s just a ploy to cut costs. So we’re taking it to the streets, starting with a massive information picket.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said it was about time workers got their pay equity – without cutting programs or staffing.

“The province passed the Pay Equity Act in 1987. Thirty years later, some employers still haven’t complied with the law. And when they finally do, some victimize clients and workers. This employer wants to offload services for vulnerable women to the lowest bidder, instead of picking up the phone and telling Kathleen Wynne they need money for pay equity. It’s as simple as that.”

For more information: Maggie Wakeford, 705-363-5659