TORONTO - After fruitless attempts at the bargaining
table and at conciliation to reach a contract for Reena staff, the
bargaining team of OPSEU Local 554 met with a Ministry of Labour
conciliation officer where they requested a no board report,
starting the countdown to an April 24 strike.
Local 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. Her employers are
“hard” in their demands, forcing the union to bargain every aspect
of their collective agreement. MacKinnon remains steadfast in the
face of this challenge, 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 bargaining
team is striving to attain an agreement that truly reflects the
quality care these members supply to their vulnerable clients.
Several other developmental service agencies have succeeded in
securing a just settlement, and Reena employees want no more, and no
less, than these contracts currently outline.
The employer and the union have not yet seen eye to
eye on issues such as wages, benefits, and educational stipends.
Without fair wages, many of the 435 OPSEU members working at Reena
are forced to work two or more part-time jobs. This not only puts
undue stress on the workers and their families, but negatively
affects the close to 1,000 children, adults, and seniors with
developmental disabilities currently receiving care through the
programs available to them at Reena. Without Reena, these people
would see their quality services put at risk, services that include
life and work skills development, job placement programs, continuing
education, recreational and leisure activities, and respite for the
families of affected individuals.