“When we first sat down at the table, the employer demanded a slate of concessions, including benefits cuts for most of the membership. But the bargaining team was able to remove every, single concession. This was a great victory.” — Julie Lenko, OPSEU Chair of the LHINs’ central bargaining team
Toronto (23 Jan. 2018) — Workers at 4 of the province’s Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) have voted 95 per cent in favour of accepting a tentative agreement reached between the employer and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
Strong strike mandate gave bargaining team strength at the table
Julie Lenko, Chair of the LHINs’ central bargaining team, said she was very pleased by the scale of the vote. “All through the negotiations process, the team has been inspired by the tremendous solidarity shown by members. For example, they gave us a 94 per cent strike mandate. That solidarity carried through, right to the ratification vote.”
Some 600 OPSEU/NUPGE members work at the 4 LHINs: Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN, Central East LHIN, North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN and North East LHIN. This was the first round of bargaining for LHIN workers since the Ontario government integrated all Community Care Access Centres into the LHINs in June 2017. Accordingly, 4 separate collective agreements were negotiated at one bargaining table.
“Once the transition was complete,” said Lenko, “the bargaining team focused on protecting basic demands around wages, benefits and layoffs. Now that we’ve signed long-term contracts, I’m confident we’re well placed to face further changes down the road.”
In addition to putting protections in place, there were a number of common improvements in the 3-year contracts, including 1.75 per cent wage enhancements in each year and a $50 increase to the vision benefit. The North East LHIN got an additional one per cent increase in the first and second years, given that it already lagged behind the other 3 LHINs in terms of compensation.
No concessions by OPSEU/NUPGE members
But Lenko said the improvements do not tell the whole story. “When we first sat down at the table, the employer demanded a slate of concessions, including benefits cuts for most of the membership. But the bargaining team was able to remove every single concession. This was a great victory.”
President Warren (Smokey) Thomas expressed pride in members’ willingness to do everything necessary to achieve good contracts. “The employer tried to use recent upheaval to set workers back. But they didn’t take into account workers’ solidarity and determination not to give an inch," said Thomas.
“I congratulate the bargaining team and all the members for their remarkable achievement," he said.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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