Barrie – All employees with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Simcoe County are now members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). They voted 93 per cent in favour of unionizing at a vote held on August 2.
Based out of the employer’s offices in Barrie, these workers provide services throughout Simcoe to women who have been in contact with the justice system. Notably, they support women at Joyce Kope House, a 27-bed safe residence and halfway house for individuals under parole supervision. It provides women with an opportunity to live and work in the community.
Len Mancini, chair of OPSEU’s Justice Sector, said there were a number of reasons that Elizabeth Fry workers in Simcoe County had sought to join a union.
“These women felt there was a lack of transparency in the workplace and, to be honest, not enough appreciation for the very important work they do. They give so much of themselves to their clients, and their dedication to their work needs to be acknowledged.
“There was also an ongoing health and safety issue,” Mancini continued. “For years, these workers have been grappling with bed bugs. It’s an awful thing for their vulnerable clients to have to deal with, on top of everything they’ve gone through. And for the workers, it’s an ongoing hazard.”
Mancini noted that, over several years, management had occasionally brought in pest control, but they have never really got serious about eradicating the problem. “That’s why workers bring a change of clothes with them – so they can protect their homes and families.”
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, said he was delighted that yet more Ontario workers would now have the power of the union behind them in their struggle for a better, safer workplace.
“I had heard about the poor working conditions at Elizabeth Fry in Simcoe, as well as the health and safety situation. This is terrible for clients and the workers who support them. A collective agreement setting out the conditions for a healthy workplace and a healthy living space will put them on a more equal footing with the employer and go a long way to addressing these issues.
“And I’ll be following developments at Elizabeth Fry closely as they negotiate their first collective agreement. They’ll have all the professional support they need – not to mention the moral backing of OPSEU’s 130,000 members.”
For more information: Len Mancini, 905-317-9366