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Simcoe County workers request ‘no-board’ report

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Barrie – The 22 members of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 328, who work as superintendents and housing clerks in the Social Housing Department of Simcoe County, have requested a “no-board” report from the Ministry of Labour.

The workers, who have been without a contract since December 31, 2016, have made compensation their central demand. But weeks of talks have resulted in a stalemate.

“The employer continues to offer wage increases that don’t even meet the cost of living,” said bargaining team chair Mary Ellen Kelloway. “In effect, they’re demanding we take a wage cut. At the same time, the manager of the Social Housing Department has received 11.73 per cent in wage hikes over the last three years – more than five per cent last year alone.”

Kelloway went on to note there was an even bigger issue around wages.

“An internal equity survey has clearly shown that we earn an average 18 per cent less than other Simcoe County workers doing similar work in similar circumstances. In other words, we’re being paid a fifth less for no good reason. That’s not only unjust – it will soon be illegal.”

Bill 148, which strengthened the Employment Standards Act, was passed last December. One of the bill’s provisions, which provides that workers be paid the same as other workers doing equal work, takes effect April 1.

“The employer has decided to ignore the report on wage parity, their own generous increases and, now, provincial law,” said Kelloway. “So we’ve taken decisive action by calling for a no-board. That gives the employer until 12:01 a.m. on March 9 to come back to the table with a meaningful wage proposal. If they choose to ignore that deadline, too, then they risk a major labour disruption.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said Simcoe County was behaving recklessly. “Last month, workers delivered a massive strike vote to their bargaining team. They’re determined to achieve a fair collective agreement that takes into account inflation and equal pay for equal work.

“The employer has refused to bargain seriously. Their irresponsible behaviour could have a disastrous impact on the vulnerable people living in some 1,300 housing units. The clock is ticking, and they’ve put themselves in an indefensible position. They need to return to the negotiating table with an offer that shows respect for their professional staff – and recognizes Ontario law.”

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