“This employer needs to understand unequivocally that we’ll take job action if they’re not serious about negotiating a decent and just contract. The fact that many of their workers have gone more than a decade without a wage increase is scandalous.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President.
Toronto (15 Sept. 2014) — By a margin of 76 per cent workers at Firefly child treatment centres in northwestern Ontario have voted in favour of walking off the job if contract talks with their employer fail to produce an agreement.
Lack of wage increase for 12 years prompts strike vote by OPSEU members working for Firefly child treatment centres
One-third of the 150 workers, represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE), have been without a wage increase for 12 years.
No strike date has been set and a labour board conciliator is scheduled to join the talks on September 22.
“We never go to the bargaining table with the intention of eventually walking off the job,” said Amy Stamp, a member of the local’s bargaining team. “But, to date, our contract negotiations are going nowhere and we had little choice but to call for a strike mandate.”
“Our members are dedicated professionals that provide quality services to some of the Northwest’s most vulnerable youth. That must be reflected in the respect that we deserve, job security we expect in the workplace and the wages we earn.”
Workers at Firefly provide support for northwestern Ontario's most vulnerable youth
Firefly Northwest is a not-for-profit, charitable multi-service agency providing physical, emotional, developmental and community services for children, youth, adults and their families. Members of OPSEU Local 702 include mental health counsellors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language pathologists, clerical and support staff, among other categories. They work in eight communities across northwestern Ontario, including Kenora, Dryden, Ear Falls, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Ignace, Atikokan and Fort Frances.
Stamp said her members were paid less than comparable workers at other agencies. The result is that Firefly has been losing qualified professionals, and its clients and their families are suffering the consequences of this.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said his union would stand strongly behind the Firefly workers.
“This employer needs to understand unequivocally that we’ll take job action if they’re not serious about negotiating a decent and just contract. The fact that many of their workers have gone more than a decade without a wage increase is scandalous," Thomas said.
Fairness Express stopped by to show support for workers
When the Fairness Express stopped in Kenora during its Ontario tour, it brought solidarity to the Firefly workers who have been engaged in slow-moving bargaining. The big green bus, on its nation-wide tour promoting tax fairness, good jobs, quality public services and labour rights, brought some attention to the battle the workers have been waging. The struggle at Firefly was the perfect example of why we all need to be fighting for greater fairness and equality in our communities.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE