Barrie – The bargaining team for Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 328 has asked the Ministry of Labour to begin the conciliation process in the wake of Simcoe County’s refusal to implement internal wage parity for its workers.
Local 328 represents 22 superintendents and housing clerks in the social housing division
who maintain and ensure the safety of high-quality housing for members of the community
who require housing assistance from the county. The union members have been without a contract since December 31, 2016.
“We’ve met with the employer four times since June,” said bargaining team chair Mary Ellen Kelloway. “We’ve made good progress on some matters, including some minor benefit improvements. However, when it came to wages, we met a brick wall. The wage increases the employer is offering aren’t even close to the annual cost of inflation.”
Kelloway explained that the employer’s wage offer is particularly unacceptable in light of an internal equity survey that showed that another division within Simcoe County doing similar work in similar circumstances earned an average 18 per cent more than the housing workers.
“The employer acknowledged the survey results, saying that internal equity was for the negotiations table. But when we raised the issue during the last round of negotiations, the employer threatened to replace our members with outside contractors.
“The employer is totally cognizant of the current inequity but isn’t prepared to do the right thing and correct the imbalance,” said Kelloway. “It would be completely irresponsible for us to allow Simcoe County to continue to ignore this flagrant injustice.”
In light of the employer’s refusal to continue to negotiate appropriate wage adjustments, the bargaining team has asked for the help of a conciliator. In addition, the team will seek a strong strike mandate from its members, with a vote scheduled for January 2.
“These workers have gone a year without a contract,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “This is not the time to put up obstacles to negotiations. My message to this employer is, come back to the table and make an offer that reflects the cost of living and addresses the wage gap. There’s always a way to make it work. Why put the integrity of the county’s social housing at risk?”
For more information: Judy Storey, OPSEU regional representative, 705-238-7193