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West Toronto Community Legal Services sends clear message: play fair or face strike

Community Agencies Sector 5

Toronto – Following unanimous rejection of the employer’s final contract offer, workers with West Toronto Community Legal Services have delivered a unanimous strike mandate to their bargaining team.

The vote was triggered during Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 525’s negotiations with the employer for a new collective agreement. A key sticking point is whether a new paralegal position recently added to the workplace is included in the scope of the bargaining unit. The employer insisted that the new position be excluded from the bargaining unit.

When the local took the fight to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the employer reacted by halving the monetary portion in their final offer to finance costs at the board. With the strike vote, workers have demonstrated they are 100 per cent united in their determination to stand up for their rights and push back on any form of intimidation.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas warmly congratulated workers for standing behind their bargaining team and rejecting the employer’s bid to keep new workers out of the bargaining unit.

“First of all, there’s no way their funder, Legal Aid Ontario, should allow that kind of misspending,” he said. “Second, this employer’s actions are unethical. In essence, they’re making their workers pay for the employer’s fight at the labour board by slashing what was in their final offer. They’ve made it clear they plan to use the savings to fund their challenge at the board.

“Punishing workers for trying to protect something already within their scope of rights is just wrong,” Thomas continued. “This unit may be small in numbers, but this employer will have a big fight on their hands with the full weight of OPSEU behind these courageous workers.

“I strongly suggest the employer focus their energy and resources on negotiating a fair contract with staff – rather than wasting them at the labour board.”

OPSEU Local 525 members at West Toronto Community Legal Services provide legal and housing support to low-income individuals in Toronto's west end, including appeals of Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program decisions.

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