Cambridge – Facing an employer that is refusing to treat its front-line staff as fairly as it treats its managers, the OPSEU members at the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) have asked a conciliator to head off a potential strike.
“These members are showing courage and integrity by standing up for what’s right, and I stand with them,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “It’s simple, really: you can’t pay your managers on par with what other managers at similar organizations are making, and then turn around and tell your front-line staff they’re out of luck.
“Ontario just elected a government because it pledged to put the ‘little guy’ first,” Thomas said. “If this employer doesn’t stop putting the ‘little guy’ last, it’s going to have a tough time explaining to the public why it forced its employees into a strike.”
The roughly 150 members of OPSEU Local 259, who work at the GRCA as planners, assistant superintendents, and environmental officers, have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2017.
During bargaining, they’ve been asking for wage increases that would simply bring their pay in line with workers doing similar work at similar organizations, something the employer has already done for its managers. The Local 259 members are also looking for a commitment from the employer to keep their positions and their work publicly owned and managed by the GRCA.
But so far, the employer has refused to budge.
Earlier this month, the Local 259 members voted in favour of striking to back their bargaining demands. And earlier this week, they filed for conciliation.
“These OPSEU members are serious about fighting for the fair working conditions they need in order to protect the Grand River watershed,” said OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “And I can promise the employer that OPSEU is serious about standing with them.”
The Local 259 members are optimistic they have public opinion on their side.
“The last thing we want to do is go on strike, especially during camping season,” said Local 259 bargaining chair Rebecca Mitchell. “But we know the public value the work we do.
“During conciliation, we want the employer to show it values our work, too.”
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas: 613-329-1931
OPSEU Local 259 Bargaining Chair Rebecca Mitchell: 226-791-7919