PEMBROKE ON – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO) is calling for the immediate and full reinstatement of nine members who were recently targeted, and unfairly suspended at Family & Children’s Services of Renfrew County.
As staff at the agency, the members of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 459 provide an invaluable service to their communities by supporting children and families. They work with Indigenous families in the area, counsel students, liaise with the OPP and work in child protection.
“These suspensions are an outrageous abuse of power on the employer’s part,” said JP Hornick, President of OPSEU/SEFPO. “It’s clear these suspensions are a retaliation against recent union action. This employer needs to immediately reinstate the suspended workers so they can get back to supporting families and their communities”.
“It’s deeply unsettling that this employer is prioritizing retaliation over protecting children and providing services to families, especially when there is serious short-staffing at the agency,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Laurie Nancekivell. “This is why unions matter, and as a union, we will continue to stand with our members in the fight for fair treatment.”
The majority of the suspensions target local union leadership who successfully prevented the layoffs of 14 agency staff last year. Of the nine workers suspended, eight are involved with the union. Suspensions range from five to 50 days per worker, with a total of 185 days’ suspension handed out. OPSEU/SEFPO believes that the local leadership has been unfairly targeted, in an attempt to weaken the union.
In response to the unfairly extreme suspensions of these members, OPSEU/SEFPO is preparing to file an unfair labour practice application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
“These workers, who are the backbone of their local, secured some big wins, including thwarting the potential layoff of 14 of their colleagues. Now, as payback, they’re being targeted by their employer,” says Chrisy Tremblay, chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Children’s Aid Societies Sector. “Management needs to bring our members back to work as soon as possible. Only then will they begin to reconcile their relationship with the union”.