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Victory in Owen Sound: Clinic workers win decent wages, working conditions

Owen Sound – OPSEU members at the Owen Sound Family Health Organization have ratified a collective agreement that provides decent wages and working conditions that will ensure quality family health care in Owen Sound and across Ontario.

The doctors who own the clinic are scheduled to vote on the agreement Thursday.

“These workers, who are almost all women, have won an astounding victory against overwhelming odds,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “With strength and solidarity, they stood up against some of the most powerful members of their community because they knew they were right and they knew they were fighting for something bigger than themselves.

“I couldn’t be more proud to be in the same union as these women. They’ve helped themselves, and they’ve helped protect family health care for everybody in Owen Sound and, ultimately, right across Ontario.”

The OPSEU Local 276 members went on strike on May 22 because the doctors who own the clinic were offering laughable wage increases after four years of frozen wages. The doctors also refused to address precarious and toxic working conditions and were demanding that the members accept claw backs to their retirement contributions.

But in the new four-year agreement, the doctors addressed many of those concerns, providing substantial wage increases, no pension claw backs, and significantly improved job security.

“If these brave members hadn’t gone on strike, the owners would have got away with squeezing more and more profits out of the workers and, ultimately, out of the patients,” said OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “This isn’t just a victory for workers. It’s a victory for every adult, senior, and child in Owen Sound.

The workers could be back on the job as early as Sept. 10.

“Strikes are never easy, but they’re always important. I’d like to extend sincere thanks to the people of Owen Sound for their respect and encouragement through this,” said Thomas.

“Our members faced threats and violence. But with the community’s support, not to mention the support of OPSEU members and of other unions from across the province, their solidarity and strength grew with each passing day.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931