"In other words, we’re being paid a fifth less for no good reason. That’s not only unjust — it will soon be illegal." — Mary Ellen Kelloway, OPSEU bargaining team chair
Barrie (20 Feb. 2018) — The 22 members of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) Local 328, who work as superintendents and housing clerks in the Social Housing Department of Simcoe County, have requested a no-board report from the Ministry of Labour.
The workers, who have been without a contract since December 31, 2016, have made compensation their central demand. But weeks of talks have resulted in a stalemate. If the Ministry issues the no-board report, it will start the clock ticking on the 17-day timeline on whether there will be a strike by workers or a lock-out by the employer.
Wage parity major concern, but not only one
“The employer continues to offer wage increases that don’t even meet the cost of living,” said Mary Ellen Kelloway, bargaining team chair. “In effect, they’re demanding we take a wage cut. At the same time, the manager of the Social Housing Department has received 11.73 per cent in wage hikes over the last 3 years — more than 5 per cent last year alone.”
Kelloway went on to note there was an even bigger issue around wages.
“An internal equity survey has clearly shown that we earn an average 18 per cent less than other Simcoe County workers doing similar work in similar circumstances. In other words, we’re being paid a fifth less for no good reason. That’s not only unjust — it will soon be illegal," she said.
Bill 148, which strengthened the Employment Standards Act, was passed last December. One of the bill’s provisions, which provides that workers be paid the same as other workers doing equal work, takes effect April 1.
Employer ignoring new provincial law about equal pay for equal work
“The employer has decided to ignore the report on wage parity, their own generous increases, and now, provincial law,” said Kelloway. “So we’ve taken decisive action by calling for a no-board. That gives the employer until 12:01 a.m. on March 9 to come back to the table with a meaningful wage proposal. If they choose to ignore that deadline, too, then they risk a major labour disruption.”
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President, said Simcoe County was behaving recklessly. “Last month, workers delivered a massive strike vote to their bargaining team. They’re determined to achieve a fair collective agreement that takes into account inflation and equal pay for equal work."
“The employer has refused to bargain seriously. Their irresponsible behaviour could have a disastrous impact on the vulnerable people living in some 1,300 housing units," said Thomas. "The clock is ticking, and they’ve put themselves in an indefensible position. They need to return to the negotiating table with an offer that shows respect for their professional staff — and recognizes Ontario law.”
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