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Rehab Express/Closing the Gap closes the deal on new agreement

St. Thomas – Health care professionals working for Rehab Express/Closing the Gap Healthcare in St. Thomas have reached an 11th-hour deal with the employer on a new collective agreement. The workers, members of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 152, were in a legal strike or lockout position as of 12:01 a.m. on June 22.

“This is great news for all concerned: the workers, the agency and, most of all, the people of St. Thomas who depend on the excellent services provided by these dedicated professionals,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “It took some time for the employer to come around, but eventually they got the message that Local 152 members were serious about equity and clarity.”

The workers had been without a contract since March 31, 2017. They include a dietician, a social worker, a speech and language pathologist, and a number of physiotherapists and occupational therapists. The principal bone of contention was wages. Closing the Gap health professionals receive up to 30 per cent less in salary and benefits than other Ontario health care professionals doing the same work.

The tentative agreement includes a 6.7 per cent increase, effective April 1, 2018. The deal also includes a process to deal with ongoing issues, such as workload, employment status, vacation pay and statutory holidays.

Bargaining team member Dawn Wilson said members will be particularly pleased with the inclusion of a process in the tentative deal. “Once we meet with the employer, they’ll have 60 days to come up with a dollar value for a day’s pay in the context of vacation and statutory holidays. Right now, because we’re paid on a per-visit basis, a consistent pay rate hasn’t been set.”

A ratification vote has been scheduled for June 25 at 5 p.m., at which time full details of the settlement will be made available.

“I’m extremely proud of these members,” said Thomas. “This local is small, and I know the going has been tough. But the tough got going, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder, they showed the employer that second-best working conditions for first-rate professionals would no longer cut it.

“My thanks and congratulations go out to the hardworking bargaining team and OPSEU staff,” he added. “They were determined to get a square deal for the members who supported them so solidly. I look forward to the results of the ratification vote.”

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