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Employer request for ‘no board’ threatens services at Avenue II

Thunder Bay – Some 100 employees with Avenue II Community Program Services in Thunder Bay could be locked out as early as September 27 following the latest move by their employer in collective bargaining. The workers, who support individuals with developmental disabilities, have been without a contract since March 31, 2016.

Silvana Cacciatore, president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 738 and chair of the bargaining team, said the employer had short-circuited the process by requesting a “no board” report, which will set the clock ticking down to a possible labour disruption.

“On August 24, after just five hours with the conciliator, the employer presented us with their final offer – and a request for a no-board,” she said. “In essence, they created a like-it-or-lump-it situation, where they’ve shut the door on further talks until last-ditch mediation on September 25.”

Workers are seeking meaningful wage improvements. They are also resisting a pilot project that would significantly impact members’ schedules. Further, the employer has demanded that all outstanding grievances be withdrawn.

Last June, union members voted 96 per cent in favour of giving their team a mandate to call a strike, if necessary.

“I’m deeply disappointed that the employer just walked away – from us and from the people we care for and support. Because we’re all in it for one reason: to ensure the best possible quality of life for our clients.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas described the employer’s actions as “unhelpful.”

“Issuing an ultimatum is not negotiating. There’s nothing constructive about a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude to bargaining a collective agreement. This employer needs to take a good, hard look at what refusing to come to the table could mean: dedicated employees without work, clients without services, and employer-employee relations seriously compromised.

“Our bargaining team is ready to get back to the table any time,” Thomas continued. “Let’s put the brinkmanship aside and get to work hammering out a fair deal.”

For more information: Silvana Cacciatore, 807-621-9347