Sudbury – Time is running out for a negotiated settlement at the YMCA of Northeastern Ontario, as management continues to drag their heels on a first contract for the staff who provide employment and immigrant services to those in need.
The chair of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) bargaining team, Diana Demery-Hepinstall, pointed out the irony of an agency that is supposed to be providing employment support risking a labour disruption over their own refusal to come to fair terms on working conditions.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Demery-Hepinstall. “These workers are just asking for fair treatment and a reasonable workload, but this employer just doesn’t seem to be interested in working on a solution.
“Instead, we’ve seen things get worse over the last year. Workload in particular is out of control, with caseloads increasing by more than 25 per cent in the past 12 months alone. Meanwhile, workers are being subjected to mean-spirited management tactics.”
Members are increasingly vocal about their demands for action, and during last month’s strike vote an overwhelming majority gave their bargaining team the authority to end talks and move the conversation to the picket line if needed.
“We’re going to be meeting with a conciliator at the table on Thursday,” said Demery-Hepinstall. “But if that’s not enough to get management to take this seriously, we’ve heard loud and clear from members that it’s time to start looking at our other options.”
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says that the fact workers are running out of patience is “hardly surprising, given the way this employer has been dragging things out.”
“It’s been over a year since these workers certified – and they’re getting tired of management’s games,” said Thomas. “And quite frankly, so am I. These are folks who have dedicated their lives to helping those in need find employment and get a fresh start on life. They deserve a hell of a lot better than the way their bosses are treating them.
“Sadly, we see this far too often with first contracts, which is why I was disappointed the Liberals didn’t address this in their proposed changes to the Ontario Labour Relations Act. This just proves what we’ve been saying all along: we need first contract arbitration so employers like this can’t just stall to drag out the process of getting workers the fair collective agreement they deserve.”
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Normand Pilon, Staff Representative, 705-665-2216