(OWEN SOUND – July 27, 2012) -- Personal support workers with the Grey-Bruce Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), represented by Local 289 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, have voted to ratify their first collective agreement, averting a possible strike.
“It’s always a milestone when OPSEU members achieve their first collective agreement,” said the union’s president, Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “We look forward to building on this contract in subsequent rounds of bargaining over the years ahead.”
The 36 workers had voted 87 per cent in favour of strike action in May, rejecting a previous tentative agreement. An improved deal was struck on July 17 with staff approving the new deal in a vote this week.
VON staff will see improvements in wages and working conditions as part of a two-year deal which is effective April 2011, when workers voted to join OPSEU.
With a total wage increase of approximately 5.1 per cent, the top rate for personal support workers moves from $13.56 to $14.25 per hour over the life of the contract.
For part-time workers, who make up about 90 per cent of the unit, the deal provides a six per cent bonus in lieu of pension and benefits. With the pay-in-lieu increased, the top part-time rate for those not in the pension or benefit plan moves to more than $15 an hour.
The deal provides for a signing bonus of $100 for all regular employees.
"We made some good progress towards the wages our members need and deserve," said Diane Wark, chair of the bargaining team and Local 289 president.
Notwithstanding gains in compensation and benefits, wages for personal support staff in Grey-Bruce still lag behind OPSEU levels for similar work in other areas of the province. The local considers this a realistic first step in the process of catch-up.