OPSEU President calls out Hastings County management for hamfisted behaviour


TORONTO – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is demanding Hastings County management work with the union and back-off from placing staff on unpaid Declared Emergency Leave.

“This shouldn’t be a ransom situation,” said Thomas. “This Employer is attempting to pressure the union with action that negatively impacts workers – it is completely unacceptable and hamfisted.”

On April 3, Hastings County sent notice to OPSEU that child care staff would be issued a 30-day notice of layoff with pay, if the union agreed to those workers being placed on Declared Emergency Leave under Bill 186 for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The union signaled good faith to work with the Employer towards an acceptable resolution, however, OPSEU would not allow its members to be bullied into submission in the midst of a world pandemic.

Rather than negotiate with the bargaining agent, Manager of Human Resources at Hastings County, Erin Vries, unilaterally declared that she would immediately place these front-line workers on unpaid Declared Emergency Leave.

“This is a downright cruel, unnecessary bully pulpit reaction that hurts these child care workers and their families, at a time when they’re already under extreme emotional and financial strain,” said Thomas. “Vries is way out of line. She has shown that she is out of touch with the very service she is charged with overseeing. Egregiously Machiavellian is the only words that come to mind.”

OPSEU First Vice President/Treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida pointed out that Hastings County Directors are regulars on the Sunshine List for top public sector salaries – with an average annual salary of $115,110 – and Vries’s salary falls just south of this.

“This is yet another case of bad bosses who don’t understand the impact their actions have on hardworking employees,” said Almeida. “Rashly denying assistance and punishing workers because she didn’t get her own way is unacceptable.”

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