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To The Point: Sector 19 Newsletter, January 2022

Message from OPSEU/SEFPO’s President and First Vice-President/Treasurer: New year, new challenges, new hope

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As essential front-line employees, your work never stops: Because illness and accidents don’t take holidays, the demand for blood and diagnostics is a 24/7 job, every week of the year. That means your jobs have built-in sacrifices in terms of a personal/work life balance. It’s just one of the many reasons we’re so proud to represent you.

As Omicron rapidly spreads and threatens to overwhelm our health care system, the demands made upon you will grow greater than ever before. So will the risks to your physical and mental well-being.

Your commitment should be fully recognized in your collective agreement. I know your bargaining team will do everything possible to make that happen. But in one important respect, their hands are tied in some of your units by Bill 124, which limits total compensation – wages and benefits combined – to one per cent annually for three years.

OPSEU/SEFPO will provide every possible resource in reaching the best possible agreement during these tough times.

Although it’s hard to believe right now, one day the pandemic will be a memory. In the meantime, Ontario will continue to rely on you and the vitally important work you perform. Know that you have our respect and sincere appreciation.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer

Message from the Chair

I want to begin by wishing everyone a very happy new year! I hope you enjoyed the holidays with family and friends, although I’m certain many of you had to cope with challenging work pressures.

I’d also like to welcome Sector 19’s incoming executive. They are dedicated and talented individuals who have generously stepped up to the plate to advance your interests. I’m particularly proud of their diversity, with representatives from LifeLabs, Public Health Ontario and Canadian Blood Services.

At the same time, I salute the outgoing executive, which distinguished itself by its unrelenting hard work on behalf of members. I know your experience will stand you in very good stead when you seek out future leadership situations. Thank you for your service!

I don’t have to tell you that the Omicron variant poses a renewed threat to our health and safety, and to the integrity of our health care system. No one wanted the New Year to feature new lockdown measures, but here we are. We’re tired. We’re frustrated. We’re fed up. But we need to try as best we can to put all that aside and keep our eyes on the job at hand, because the people of Ontario rely on us.

As front-line workers, we’re faced with a double whammy: the risk of exposure and the challenges associated with complying with vaccination policy compliance. I’m counting on each of you to continue to do everything possible to keep yourself and your clients safe.

But we have a challenge of a different nature ahead of us. Tough bargaining is taking place in all groups for a new contracts. A significant challenge is Bill 124. The bargaining team will negotiate around it and await a successful verdict from the courts on OPSEU/SEFPO’s Charter challenge of this hugely unfair and irresponsible legislation, which punishes with real wage cuts the very heroes of the province.

Rest assured that we’ll provide you with bargaining updates as negotiations progress. In the meantime, we’re counting on your unfailing solidarity. Believe me when I say it’s absolutely key to success at the table.

In solidarity,

Geoff Cain, Chair, OPSEU/SEFPO Sector 19

New sector executive members

In November, the sector ran elections at the BPS Conference for the next sector executive. We are excited to have two new members join the team: Hanan Battah and Renee Aiken Kearsley.

We held our first meeting on November 22 and 23, and we have establish a solid work plan for the next two years to help all our members tackle the critical issues dominating our sector.

Message from the Vice-Chair

I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to all the front-line members of Sector 19 working at Canadian Blood Services, LifeLabs and Public Health Ontario for their dedication, hard work and contribution to the province’s response to COVID-19.

I also congratulate the sector members who were re-elected, and I warmly welcome the newly elected members to the sector. Together, we’ll work hard to advance the agenda of our sector and highlight the important work our members do on a daily basis. We’re hoping to reach out to our members across the sector to inform, motivate, educate and involve them.

Many of our members across the sector are in the middle of bargaining. They’re faced with Bill 124, which restricts total compensation – wages and benefits – to one per cent annually for the next three years. OPSEU/SEFPO has launched a Charter challenge.

In solidarity,

Shah Nawaz, Vice-Chair, OPSEU/SEFPO Sector 19

Canadian Blood Services update

This year is shaping up to be a busy bargaining year for CBS members. Our provincewide support unit is proceeding to interest arbitration on their contract. We are awaiting confirmation of an agreed-upon arbitrator, and then a hearing date will be set.

Our professional/technical Local 200 unit and Sudbury National Contact Centre have served notice to bargain, with their contracts expiring on March 31, 2022.

We also have a new CBS plasma unit! We are excited to announce they have been recently awarded their first contract. Congratulations!

CBS members continue to deal with staffing shortages and workload concerns. They are being asked to work out of region to cover shifts. Child care has been a challenge throughout the pandemic, because of online learning. We want you to know your sector executive will continue to advocate for safe, healthy working conditions for all employees.

Public Health Ontario update

Our members at Public Health Ontario (PHO) have been working under an expired contract since April 2020.

We’re happy to report that we have an arbitration date which has been scheduled for April 30, 2022. The PHO bargaining team will be working with the OPSEU/SEFPO Research and Negotiations Unit to prepare for our hearing, where the arbitrator will rule on the items in dispute.

A big thanks to all of our PHO members for helping keep Ontarians safe throughout the pandemic. We know you’ve been working around the clock to keep up with testing demands. You’ve been faced with mandatory overtime, cancelled vacation time and lots of extra hours. On top of that, we’ve been dealing with COVID outbreaks in the Toronto lab. Your sector executive will continue to help the locals press for greater health and safety measures.

LifeLabs

Our newest LifeLabs members in Region 5 and Region 2 are working towards achieving their first collective agreements. Couriers in Region 5 are now in conciliation, pushing the employer for better wages, benefits and working conditions. Rest assured your sector executive is there to support our new members every step of the way.

Congratulations to our new LifeLabs members working in the Timmins lab, who recently joined OPSEU/SEFPO and now have their first collective agreement in place.

Currently 10 per cent of LifeLabs employees are OPSEU/SEFPO members, and we are looking to keep growing and building solidarity.

Our Local 389 members working at LifeLabs in Simcoe County held an information picket on January 14 at the office of their local MPP, Doug Downey. The employer blatantly disrespected our unionized members by excluding them from a company-wide bonus of $1,750 that was provided to all non-union employees.

These members were also rallying for their right to equal compensation and bonuses, particularly in the face of a retention and recruitment crisis that has led to long lineups, location closures, and verbal and physical abuse by the public against staff.

Respect Campaign

Thank you to all members who have been showing their support for our bargaining teams. We’ve had tough rounds of bargaining for all groups so far. But receiving encouraging displays of solidarity from our members has really boosted the teams’ abilities to fight even harder for better contracts.

Stay in touch and please continue to show your OPSEU/SEFPO colours by wearing blue and your lanyards! Be sure to send any pictures and comments to our sector’s communications rep, Sarah Dupuis, at sarahdupuis619@yahoo.ca.

We must continue to demand respect for your valuable work, safe and healthy workplaces, stable employment and liveable work hours. Your unstoppable efforts during this pandemic have proven how amazing our members really are at keeping Ontario’s blood supply safe, while keeping up with testing demands across the province. From all of us here at OPSEU/SEFPO and your divisional executive, we hope you have a safe and very happy 2022!