With a September 6 strike deadline now in place, members of OPSEU Local 249 at Central West Specialized Developmental Services (CWSDS) walked the perimeter of their central workplace Wednesday to demand that management get serious about bargaining.
The marching Local 249 members were joined by OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, and Region 2 Regional Vice-President Lucy Morton, as well as supporters from eastern Ontario and members of United Steelworkers Local 1005 in Hamilton, including president Gary Howe.
Local 249 members are incensed that the best wage offer put on the table by management amounts to a measly 10 cents an hour. Members handed their bargaining team a strong 91 per cent strike mandate in a vote last May.
“Ten cents an hour is akin to leaving a one cent tip at the end of a restaurant meal,” said President Thomas. “It’s shameful.”
Thomas told those on the picket line that while OPSEU never bargains for walkouts, “you have to prepare for the worse and hope for the best.”
OPSEU leaders pledged the union’s unqualified support should members find themselves locked out or on strike on September 6.
“If it turns out you end up on strike, everyone here needs to know you’ve got the full strength of the union behind you,” said First Vice-President/Treasurer Almeida.
“I’m here to show my solidarity,” said Stephen Woods, vice-chair of the OPSEU Developmental Services sector, who drove in from Napanee for the event. “We’ve been through strikes before and it’s important that we show our support for others who might be in a similar situation.”
Besides wages, other issues are blocking the way to a deal at CWSDS, Local 249 members say.
Management ranks are bloated – along with executive compensation – while there has been a dramatic drop in the number of frontline staff. Thirty positions currently sit vacant, which puts additional stress on remaining staff, said Local 249 President Sue Walker, who represents the 340 OPSEU members at CWSDS. Management blames the amount it’s spending on overtime as the reason behind the vacancies.
“We have wage expectations and if they’re not met we’ll be out,” said Walker. “It’s good to know that OPSEU is behind us.”
OPSEU Region 2 RVP Lucy Morton summarized everyone’s message by saying, “Stand strong and stand together.”
The two sides return to bargaining on August 28 under the guidance of a provincially-appointed mediator. “We’re going back to the table next week and we’ll be working to get a deal done,” said Walker. “If we don’t, we know what we’ll have to do.”
CWSDS staff care for people with extreme developmental disabilities in Oakville, Burlington, Dufferin and Peel regions. They describe their work as highly specialized and very rewarding, but also physically and mentally demanding. It can be dangerous, too, they say.
For more information, or to offer support to Local 249, please contact Sue Walker at 289-260-5915.