OPSEU/SEFPO has filed an Unfair Labour Practice against Family & Children’s Services of Renfrew County following the unjust targeting and suspension of nine agency staff.
OPSEU/SEFPO Local 459 members working at the agency provide support to children and families in the area, counsel students, liaise with the Ontario Provincial Police and provide child protection services.
Last year, the nine agency staff, eight of whom are union leaders and activists, were targeted for an internal audit of compliance with workplace policies. This audit was only done for 12 staff at the agency, not all employees. The eight targeted OPSEU/SEFPO Local 459 members who received suspensions were also involved in a successful campaign to prevent the layoff of 14 workers in the spring of 2022.
“The work that OPSEU/SEFPO members at Family & Children’s Services of Renfrew County do to support and protect children and families is invaluable to their community. Rather than retaliate against and intimidate workers, this employer’s focus should be on continuing to strengthen the services it offers to Renfrew County,” said JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO President.
The unpaid suspensions range in severity from five days to 50 days per worker, amounting to a total 185 days of suspension. This is not the employer’s first union-busting attempt following the anti-layoff campaign, with management having discouraged workers from supporting the union during previous meetings.
“The disciplinary action that this employer took far exceeds the offences it claims these workers committed,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer, Laurie Nancekivell. “Unpaid suspensions for up to 50 days, in the midst of a cost of living crisis, is not only severe; it’s cruel to workers and their families. OPSEU/SEFPO stands with our members at Local 459 and we will fight to ensure they are treated fairly.”
The members of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 459 held an information picket earlier this month, on January 13th, to show solidarity with their suspended coworkers and speak out against the employer’s actions.
“Our members work hard for the families and children in Renfrew County. They deserve to be recognized for that – not unfairly targeted and suspended while dealing with short staffing and heavy workloads,” said Chrisy Tremblay, chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Children’s Aid Societies Sector. “Enough of the union-busting. It’s time for this employer to treat its workers with respect.”