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Simcoe County workers deliver strong strike vote

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Barrie – The members of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 328, which represents 22 superintendents and housing clerks in the Social Housing Department of Simcoe County, have handed their bargaining team a massive strike mandate.

The union members have been without a contract since December 31, 2016. Since then, negotiations have stalled on the question of remuneration and internal wage parity, said bargaining team chair Mary Ellen Kelloway.

“While we agreed on a number of matters, such as benefits, we couldn’t reach an agreement on wage hikes. The employer is offering increases that are below the rate of inflation – we’d be taking a wage cut.

The employer’s offer also completely ignores an internal equity survey that demonstrated we were earning an average 18 per cent less than another division within Simcoe County, even though we’re doing similar work in similar circumstances. Imagine how demoralizing that is – not to mention blatantly unjust,” Kelloway added.

The County of Simcoe owns over 1,300 housing units for seniors, families and individuals. The OPSEU members in the Social Housing Department have a wide variety of responsibilities, from information collecting, referrals, tenders and administrative support, to general maintenance and repairs, including electrical, plumbing and grounds maintenance.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, advised Simcoe County to pay close attention to the results of the vote. “A vote of this magnitude sends a clear message that workers are very serious about reaching a fair collective agreement.

“This employer can’t expect hardworking employees to swallow a wage cut,” Thomas continued. “These workers are being paid a fifth less than other employees who do similar work. It’s been a year now. It’s time the employer made a serious offer – one that recognizes the rising cost of living and the value of their work – or face a labour disruption. There’s just no two ways about it.”

For more information: Judy Storey, OPSEU regional representative, 705-238-7193