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Strike looms at New Path Youth and Family Services

Barrie – The Ministry of Labour has issued a “no board” report at the request of workers with New Path Youth and Family Services, triggering a 17-day countdown to a strike or lockout deadline of 12:01 a.m. on July 14.

New Path is a government-funded mental health centre providing services for children, youth, and their families in Simcoe County. New Path employees are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and include therapists, counsellors, and child and youth workers.

Bargaining team chair Scott Stratton said employees were not making unreasonable demands. “We’re looking for a modest increase that’ll help us keep up with the cost of living,” he said. “Over the last several years, we’ve been falling further and further behind. We care deeply about our clients – they’re like family to us. But we’ve also got families at home to provide for.

“After years of zeroes and below-cost-of-living increases, the provincial government has signalled that public sector workers deserve increases. New Path workers deserve a fair wage increase, too,” Stratton said, “but the employer insists we settle for $700 Visa cards.

“Meanwhile, CEO Glen Newby is making a six-figure salary,” he noted. “In fact, his paycheque has been fattened by 15 per cent in just the last two years. “Glen Newby doesn’t accept gift cards, and neither should we – his hardworking employees.

Stratton also pointed out that New Path is the lead agency in Simcoe County for the Ontario government's Moving on Mental Health plan. “New Path should be a model. With the crisis in children’s mental health, it’s vital that kids and their families enjoy uninterrupted service.”

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU and a registered practical nurse working in psychiatric care for most of his life, agreed that the employer needed to step up to the plate.

“In this day and age,” he said, “it’s hard to imagine a government-funded agency would think it could throw gift cards at staff, rather than meaningfully and fairly compensating them for the outstanding services and care they provide.”

For more information: Greg McVeigh, OPSEU staff representative, 705-238-0511