“The women who dedicate their lives to helping Indigenous women in need have found that they themselves are in need." — Kareen Marshall, Chair of OPSEU’s Community Agencies Division
Toronto (26 Jan. 2018) – All non-management staff at the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto are now proud members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE). The workers voted to join the union on January 22.
The Native Women’s Resource Centre provides a safe and welcoming environment for Toronto-area Indigenous women and their children. Staff assist them with services that cover housing, families, advocacy, employment, education and youth.
“The women who dedicate their lives to helping Indigenous women in need have found that they themselves are in need,” said Kareen Marshall, Chair of OPSEU’s Community Agencies Division. “The employer has increasingly taken their dedicated efforts for granted, causing real consternation.”
Job security, increase in contract workers prompted workers to seek union representation
Marshall explained that the latest sign of erosion was the employer’s move to eliminate the paid week off during the Christmas break without explanation or notice. Workers were also greatly concerned about the employer’s increasing reliance on contract work.
“Job security was a big factor in workers seeking union representation. Precarious workers can have a terrible time balancing family obligations with changeable work schedules,” noted Marshall. “As more contract workers are hired, permanent employees worry about their own job security.”
OPSEU/NUPGE a strong voice with Indigenous communities fighting for justice
The employer went to great pains to dissuade employees from joining OPSEU/NUPGE, noting that their Indigenous traditions were sufficient protection. But union organizers countered that OPSEU/NUPGE is always attentive to the concerns of its Indigenous members and has also been a strong voice on behalf of Indigenous communities when it comes to fighting for basic social and economic justice, and now, the calls to action enshrined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“OPSEU/NUPGE is second to none when it comes to inclusivity and respect for Indigenous members,” said Marshall. “These new members will find a very warm welcome at OPSEU/NUPGE, which has a host of resources geared to Indigenous members and outreach to the wider Indigenous community.”
Next step, prepare for bargaining first contract
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU/NUPGE, echoed Marshall’s words. “Indigenous women and their families in Toronto encounter numerous challenges in integrating into the community. For over 3 decades, the dedicated workers with the Native Women’s Resource Centre have done everything possible to help them get settled and prepare them for success."
“OPSEU/NUPGE will do the same thing for our new members,” Thomas continued. “We’ll get them settled into the OPSEU/NUPGE family, and we’ll help them prepare for a first contract. I’m looking forward to it.”
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