The following open letter was sent to the Board of Directors at Black Creek Community Health Centre by OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and the Bargaining Team of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 5117. The letter addresses an email sent to the local’s members by Executive Director Cheryl Prescod, which threatened workers’ jobs in the event of a strike on June 11 and encouraged workers to cross the picket line.
Board of Directors
Black Creek Community Health Centre
2202 Jane St., Unit 5 & 1 York Gate Blvd., Suite 202
Dear Members of the Board,
We ask that the Executive Director of Black Creek Community Health Centre (Black Creek CHC), Cheryl Prescod, cease and desist from threatening OPSEU/SEFPO members with job loss as they approach their legal strike position on June 11.
We are appalled that the Executive Director has chosen to encourage workers to cross the picket line in the event of a strike. In her letter to OPSEU/SEFPO Local 5117 members, dated Friday, June 4, 2021, she makes it clear that the community health centre intends to remain open during a strike, and explains how workers can make arrangements with the employer to continue to work.
The Employer’s letter came after OPSEU/SEFPO offered twice – verbally and in writing – to resolve the bargaining issues with the help of an impartial arbitrator as an avenue to prevent a work stoppage. The union understands that it is vital to the public that these issues are resolved so that Black Creek CHC can continue to provide community health care services and operate as a vaccination site for this hot spot area. The employer has yet to respond to this invitation. Instead, Ms. Prescod proceeded with sending the intimidating letter to Black Creek CHC employees.
These actions are an attack against workers who provide an important service to the Jane and Finch/Black Creek community. The heart and soul of Black Creek CHC is its workers. They are on the frontlines every day taking care of the public and providing support to them that extends even further beyond healthcare.
Ms. Prescod must answer to her workers and explain why she wants them to fall behind, after serving the community under the most difficult conditions during a pandemic.
Why is the Executive Director withholding the bare minimum of a one per cent allowable wage increase under wage restraint legislation, when other workers in the GTA have achieved this? Instead of compensating workers with the same one per cent increase that other community health care workers are receiving, she wants Black Creek CHC employees to rely on unpredictable wage increases applied by the Ministry of Health, which she agrees there’s no guarantee of.
Why must our members have their benefits and entitlements reduced, such as having their bereavement leave reduced to once per year? This is heartless, especially during a pandemic.
We will not allow misleading scare tactics and intimidation to define our actions. The union members at Black Creek CHC are entitled to seek improvements to their working conditions and are protected by legislation in this process. No employee should be put in a position to choose between their job security and exercising their right to bargain. Ms. Prescod’s actions are harmful and attack the rights of workers to union representation.
If Ms. Prescod supports anti-oppressive practices and understands equity and justice issues in the community that she serves, she must stop her anti-union tactics at Black Creek Community Health Centre.
Community health centres in surrounding areas to Black Creek CHC are recognizing the value of their workers and have bargained wage increases and improvements during the pandemic. Black Creek CHC workers deserve to be treated with the same respect as their peers. Intimidation by their Executive Director into accepting a collective agreement that will disadvantage them for years to come is unacceptable.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Mahnaz Pourahmadi, OPSEU/SEFPO Local 5117 President and Bargaining Team Chair
Butterfly Sabrina Gopaul, OPSEU/SEFPO Local 5117 Bargaining Team member
Shannon McLennon, OPSEU/SEFPO Local 5117 Bargaining Team member
c: Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health
Tess Romain, Interim CEO, Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network