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St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital workers achieve real improvements in arbitration award

St. Thomas – OPSEU Local 159, representing more than 280 service workers at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH), is celebrating after receiving an interest arbitration award that improves wages and working conditions to be more in line with other hospital service workers across Ontario.

This interest arbitration was to resolve a first collective agreement for a service bargaining unit won by OPSEU in a vote under Public Service Labour Relations Transition Act. There were 18 issues taken to arbitration and in large part the awarded provisions, whether proposals of the Union or Employer, represent an improvement on the provisions the members had in their previous collective agreement.

The biggest issue outstanding between the parties was how to deal with the general wage increase in the first year. OPSEU argued that due to the timing of the vote, the members had lost the opportunity to bargain a general wage increase for the 2013 fiscal year. The Chair agreed with OPSEU and awarded a 1.4 per cent increase in the first year, rather than the Hospital’s proposal of 0.7 per cent.

Sonja Shier, president of Local 159, was pleased with the outcome. “The award is a welcome improvement for our new members compared to their last collective agreement,” she said. “The bargaining team and the Research Officers all did their homework and made an excellent case.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas congratulated the members on behalf of the executive board. “This is a very significant achievement. Thanks to the hard work and professionalism of our bargaining team these members now have a first collective agreement,” he said.

OPSEU represents more than 500 workers at STEGH.

For more information: Rain Loftus, Negotiator, 519-878-3540,