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Lockout looms for Toronto bail workers

Toronto – With just 10 days before a possible lockout, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 548 members with the Ministry of the Attorney General’s bail program in Toronto have asked their bargaining team to return to the negotiations table to try to obtain a collective agreement

“On June 4, the employer walked away after just three hours with the ministry-appointed conciliator,” said the local’s bargaining team chair. “That same day, they applied for a no-board report so they could legally lock us out after 17 days. That’s what our employer calls ‘negotiating.’”

The Toronto Bail Program works out of 10 offices to help secure release for offenders who would otherwise remain detained. It helps them with access to housing, addiction and mental health resources, work permits and health coverage, among other supports.

The employer rejected 15 of the 17 non-monetary items presented and turned down all monetary demands. While the union is requesting increases of 2.1 per cent annually over four years to match inflation, the employer has proposed just 1.5 per cent in each of a three-year contract.

“If the union accepted the employer’s wage offer, workers would see their buying power reduced each year as they fell further and further behind the cost of living,” noted OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “These hardworking people aren’t asking for the world. They just want to keep up with inflation. This employer needs a reality check – and a new attitude.”

Wages are not the only issue. Workers are also concerned about workload, job security, benefits, and health and safety.

Another meeting with the union, the employer and the conciliator is scheduled for June 21. But the bargaining team chair said she was not hopeful for a successful outcome. “I was surprised when the employer brought a lawyer with a reputation for union-busting to the table. It immediately created a negative environment. The union and management have enjoyed very healthy labour relations. This move could totally destroy that relationship.”

Thomas said OPSEU was ready to go to the wall for Local 548. “These workers dedicate themselves to helping some of society’s most vulnerable people get back on their feet. By keeping them out of institutions, they’re creating huge savings for the government. It’s time the ministry and the employer recognized their worth, respected their work, and came to the table with a decent offer.”

For more information: Michelle Moore, bargaining team communications, 416-660-1717