By a margin of 76 per cent workers at Firefly child treatment centres in northwest Ontario have voted in favour of walking off the job if contract talks with their employer fail to produce an agreement.
One-third of the 150 workers, represented by OPSEU Local 702, have been without a wage increase for 12 years.
No strike date has been set and a labour board conciliator is scheduled to join the talks on Sept. 22.
“We never go to the bargaining table with the intention of eventually walking off the job,” said Amy Stamp, a member of the local’s bargaining team. “But, to date, our contract negotiations are going nowhere and we had little choice but to call for a strike mandate.”
“Our members are dedicated professionals that provide quality services to some of the Northwest’s most vulnerable youth. That must be reflected in the respect that we deserve, job security we expect in the workplace and the wages we earn.”
Firefly Northwest is a non-for-profit, charitable multi-service agency providing physical, emotional, developmental and community services for children, youth, adults and their families. Members of Local 702 include mental health counsellors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language pathologists, clerical and support staff, among others categories. They work in eight communities across northwest Ontario including Kenora, Dryden, Ear Falls, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Ignace, Atikokan and Fort Frances.
Stamp said her members were paid less than comparable workers at other agencies. The result is that Firefly has been losing qualified professionals and its clients and their families are suffering the consequences of this.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said his union would stand strongly behind the Firefly workers.
“This employer needs to understand unequivocally that we’ll take job action if they’re not serious about negotiating a decent and just contract. The fact that many of their workers have gone more than a decade without a wage increase is scandalous.”
OPSEU Local 702 Bargaining Team