"We want all of Local 554 to know that we are behind them 100 per cent, ready to do what it takes to assist them in securing a fair contract.” - Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President.
Toronto (17 April 2012) - Despite numerous bargaining sessions and unsuccessful conciliation talks, members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) working at Reena, an agency providing services for people with developmental disabilities, are now facing a strike.
OPSEU Local 554 President and personal support worker at Reena, Connie MacKinnon, says they’re “looking for a fair deal. Nothing above and beyond what’s fair and what will work for both sides.” MacKinnon noted that this is the first time her Local has been in a position to strike, after 27 years in operation.
While the employer is forcing members to negotiate every aspect of the collective agreement, MacKinnon remains steadfast, explaining that at the heart of the union’s bargaining is a need to “feel a part of [the contract agreement]. We want to work together with management to benefit the members.”
OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, voiced his support, saying the members’ decision to strike is “a vital step toward attaining the demands they are seeking, and deserve. We want all of Local 554 to know that we are behind them 100 per cent, ready to do what it takes to assist them in securing a fair contract.”
In January of this year, Local 554 members voted 93.2% in favour of taking strike action if the employer refused to offer a contract at least on-par with all other Ontario developmental service workers employee agreements. The strike deadline is April 24.
The major issues outstanding are wages, benefits and educational stipends. Without fair wages, many of the 435 OPSEU/NUPGE members working at Reena are forced to work two or more part-time jobs. This puts undue stress on the workers and their families and negatively affects the close to 1,000 children, adults, and seniors with developmental disabilities receiving care through the Reena's programs. Without Reena, these people would see quality services such as life and work skills development, job placement programs, continuing education, recreational and leisure activities, and respite for the families of affected individuals – put at risk.
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