On August 11, 2015, contracted-out cleaners working at the Chedoke and McMaster sites of Hamilton Health Sciences voted 99 per cent in favour of becoming members of OPSEU.
When the hospital switched contractor providers on August 1, these workers found themselves in a vulnerable situation. Under Ontario law, contracted-out building services workers lose their membership in a union. Furthermore, they must reapply for their jobs every time the contractor changes.
This group of approximately 100 cleaners faced an additional challenge when they sought to remain with OPSEU. The new contractor argued that they should automatically become part of the Labourers’ International Union of America (LIUNA). Fortunately, Local 281President Bob Surette and Vice-President Morgan Rosser’s hard work and determination to stay with OPSEU paid off. They and their members successfully resisted pressure from the new employer and LIUNA to leave OPSEU OPSEU – the union they love and trust.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was frank in his assessment of the situation. “This is just another glaring example of why fundamental labour law reform is long overdue in Ontario. New contractors must be required to take on existing workers with their collective agreement and union affiliation intact. Why should workers have to reapply for jobs they’ve been doing for years? The law is fixed to give unscrupulous employers an opportunity to goad workers into renouncing hard‑fought gains.
“It’s high time the Ontario Labour Relations Act was changed to force contractors to compete on the basis of the highest-quality services they offer – not on the worst possible working conditions they impose on hardworking employees.”