“Ten cents an hour is akin to leaving a one cent tip at the end of a restaurant meal. It’s shameful.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (28 Aug. 2017) — With a September 6 strike deadline now in place, members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) who work at Central West Specialized Developmental Services (CWSDS) walked the perimeter of their central workplace August 23 to demand that management get serious about bargaining.
OPSEU/NUPGE members prepare for strike as employer offers wage increase of 10 cents
The members were joined by Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, First Vice-President/Treasurer, and Lucy Morton, Region 2 Regional Vice-President, as well as supporters from eastern Ontario and members of United Steelworkers Local 1005 in Hamilton, including President Gary Howe.
The OPSEU/NUPGE members are incensed that the best wage offer put on the table by management amounts to a measly 10 cents an hour. Members handed their bargaining team a strong 91 per cent strike mandate in a vote last May.
“Ten cents an hour is akin to leaving a one cent tip at the end of a restaurant meal,” said President Thomas. “It’s shameful.”
Thomas told those on the picket line that while OPSEU/NUPGE never bargains for walkouts, “you have to prepare for the worse and hope for the best.”
OPSEU/NUPGE leaders pledged the union’s unqualified support should members find themselves locked out or on strike on September 6.
“If it turns out you end up on strike, everyone here needs to know you’ve got the full strength of the union behind you,” said Almeida.
“I’m here to show my solidarity,” said Stephen Woods, Vice-Chair of the OPSEU Developmental Services sector, who drove in from Napanee for the event. “We’ve been through strikes before and it’s important that we show our support for others who might be in a similar situation.”
Besides wages, other issues are blocking the way to a deal at CWSDS
Management ranks are bloated — along with executive compensation — while there has been a dramatic drop in the number of frontline staff. Thirty positions currently sit vacant, which puts additional stress on remaining staff, said Sue Walker, Local 249 President, who represents the 340 OPSEU/NUPGE members at CWSDS. Management blames the amount it’s spending on overtime as the reason behind the vacancies.
“We have wage expectations and if they’re not met we’ll be out,” said Walker. “It’s good to know that OPSEU/NUPGE is behind us.”
Lucy Morton, OPSEU Region 2 RVP, summarized everyone’s message by saying, “Stand strong and stand together.”
The 2 sides return to bargaining on August 28 under the guidance of a provincially-appointed mediator. “We’re going back to the table next week and we’ll be working to get a deal done,” said Walker. “If we don’t, we know what we’ll have to do.”
CWSDS staff care for people with extreme developmental disabilities in the Oakville, Burlington, Dufferin and Peel regions. They describe their work as highly specialized and very rewarding, but also physically and mentally demanding. It can be dangerous, too, they say.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 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