Workers at Nipissing Mental Health Housing and Support Services in North Bay staged a successful information picket yesterday less than 48 hours before possible strike action.
The noon-hour information picket Tuesday took place outside the regional LHIN office and attracted considerable media attention.
A mediator joined the talks today in a last-ditch bid to avoid a The workers contract with Nipissing Mental Health Housing expired in March, 2013 and they turned down a tentative deal on July 24.
"Our aim is not to withdraw our services but unless progress is made in our contract talks we will be left with little alternative," said Laura Elvish, chair of the employees bargaining team. The 20 affected workers are represented by Local 662 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
Elvish said benefits are the main stumbling block in negotiations. Workers are looking to reduce the gap between the level of benefits they receive and those received by management as well as improvements to their car allowance. Employees are required to use their own vehicles in the transportation of patients and are seeking improvements in their mileage rate which is significantly below Canada Revenue Agency guidelines.
"Labour relations have been strained at Nipissing Mental Health Housing and Support Services," said Elvish. "Our members do not get the respect they deserve and this must change."
Workers at the social service agency provide clients with life skills training, medication support and supply many of their transportation needs.
OPSEU Local 662