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Participation Lodge days away from legal strike deadline


Members of OPSEU Local 235 Participation Lodge in Owen Sound have voted down their employer’s final offer by an overwhelming majority. The next step is to file for a “no board report”. This will start the clock ticking towards a legal strike deadline. Members received a strong strike mandate with a vote taken in July.

“OPSEU calls on this employer to get back to the table and negotiate a reasonable contract, ” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. ”OPSEU members have sent a strong message to management that they are prepared to do whatever it takes to support their bargaining team and reach a resolution to this negotiating impasse.”

Employees of Participation Lodge of Grey-Bruce have been working without a contract since Mar. 31, 2011. Outstanding issues include working conditions and compensation. No further talks are scheduled.

“It is clear that the Ontario Ministries’ funding these agencies require little accountability on how tax-payers’ dollars are spent. “ said OPSEU Negotiator, Lynne Easter-Froats. “Public funds need to be spent on front-line services and direct care. We should not be bankrolling bonuses for managers and administrative staff.”

The employer places blame on the provincial government and the recent recommendations by Ontario’s Minister of Finance, saying they lack the funds required for cost-of-living wage increases.

”They have the funding they need,” said Easter-Froats. “It is already available in their annualized budget, but that money is not being spent appropriately.”

Participation Lodge is a top-heavy organization with 11 managers supervising 50 staff members. In addition, approximately 55 per cent of compensation costs are earmarked for 50 unionized staff members, leaving 45 per cent of the remaining salary dollars going to those 11 managers. A further 18.3% of their annualized budget is unaccounted for as miscellaneous expenses. The union has learned that managers receive annual bonuses and enjoy weekly lunches in a local restaurant. There appear to be few controls over appropriate use of managers’ time and resources.

Working conditions at Participation Lodge are plagued by extremely low morale, unfavourable scheduling, and several examples of nepotism and favouritism. The result has left employees feeling undervalued and disrespected. Intimidation and bullying by the employer only exacerbate this situation. Management has lied to employees regarding their union rights and negotiated entitlements.

“Workers at Participation Lodge are asking that that the employer value their work and recognize the importance of their contribution to the community,” said Easter-Froats. “They are dedicated to servicing the needs of the people and families they support and they are only asking for respect and fairness.”

Participation Lodge provides supports to persons with developmental disabilities both in residential settings and in the community.

More information: please contact:
Lynne Easter-Froats,
OPSEU Negotiator:
519-657-8312 (c)