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Grand River Conservation Authority senior management irresponsible: OPSEU

We the North
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Toronto – The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union (OPSEU) has diagnosed the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) with a severe case of leadership deficiency over its decision to layoff two-thirds of its workers.

The GRCA announced the layoffs of its unionized workers effective May 11, despite the fact that the provincial government has classified some of the workers as essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas noted that the organization’s senior managers were not affected, including the Chief Administrative Officer of GRCA, Samantha Lawson – who earns $146,077 per year according to the Ontario government’s “Sunshine List” of top-paid public sector employees.

“The GRCA is suffering from a severe case of failed leadership,” said Thomas. “The best cure is to sit down with front-line workers through their bargaining agent, OPSEU, and listen to sensible solutions.”

Management only gave the union an hour’s notice before informing staff of the layoffs, cutting short any opportunity to discuss or negotiate alternative solutions.

“If cost saving measures are a top priority for GRCA during this pandemic, then why are these expensive managers laying off the people who are getting the work done? The bosses should be taking a pay cut,” stated Thomas.

Thomas noted that Ontario’s other Conservation Authorities have continued with their sampling and monitoring programs during the crisis and are in the process of transitioning more of these programs online, which the GRCA could have redeployed their workers to assist with. Instead, he said that the GRCA ignored requests to discuss redeployments.

“This is yet another example of negligent, stubborn, outdated bosses who are out-of-touch with front-line workers,” said Thomas. “If Lawson and her managers truly valued the skilled employees they have, they’d look at solutions instead of callously laying off people.”

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida pointed out that senior management teams in other municipalities around Ontario, like the City of Stratford, took pay cuts to help shoulder the financial burdens related to the pandemic.

“How can GRCA’s Management and Board even call themselves leaders?” said Almeida. “They’re placing the burden of their cost-saving measures directly on the backs of the lowest-paid employees in their organization, while they ensure their hefty salaries. This is irresponsible management at its finest.”

For more information: OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931