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Conservation Authority must halt Valentine’s Day layoff: OPSEU

Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority building

Welland – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is demanding that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) reverse its decision to lay off the union’s head steward there.

“Everyone in the Niagara region has been reading about the mismanagement at the Conservation Authority in the news,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Now they’re targeting our local union leaders.”

“The woman they are laying off isn’t just a union steward,” said Drew Finucane, OPSEU Regional Vice President. “She is a highly-skilled analyst who maintains the NPCA’s online maps and data. Because of her work, anyone in the public can find out where wetlands and conservation areas are, get information about properties they own or might want to buy, and learn how regulations impact their property. We have this information at our fingertips thanks to this hard-working employee.”

The layoff, scheduled for February 14, is the latest incident in the scandal-plagued NPCA’s history of poor labour relations with its staff, according to Finucane. “In 2013, the NPCA started firing and replacing their staff – a third of them to date,” he said. “The employees knew they needed protection, so they joined OPSEU in 2014.”

Despite the union’s best efforts, labour relations have not improved much since then. In a workplace with 32 bargaining unit employees, there are over 20 managers.  Currently there are 10 active grievances, all at arbitration – about one grievance for every three unionized employees. Instead of working with the union to settle grievances in early stages, NPCA senior staff routinely spend public money on expensive arbitration hearings.

Welland MPP Cindy Forster has called for the NPCA to be audited and investigated for mismanagement. She has been joined by the other Niagara area MPPs and municipal politicians across the region. The NPCA finally bowed to the pressure and agreed to a third party forensic audit in January.

“OPSEU supports MPP Forster’s call for a full audit and investigation of the NPCA’s operations,” said OPSEU President Thomas. “It’s time to rein in the senior management at the NPCA and let the employees do what they do best: protecting our land and resources.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Drew Finucane, 519-755-6263