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.
President, OPSEU Local
554 at (647) 718-5490