(Simcoe County) – Unable to reach a new collective agreement with Kinark Child and Family Services despite six months of trying, Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 355 will head back to the bargaining table on Monday, April 30 with the help of a Ministry of Labour conciliator.
Local 355 requested conciliation because the employer refused to discuss monetary improvements for the 85 workers in 14 locations throughout Simcoe and Muskoka. Similar employers in the Child Treatment Sector have agreed this year to combinations of wage increases, lump sum bonuses, mileage and vacation improvements, and others.
“The bargaining team has put forward a reasonable position on behalf of these mental health workers who provide professional services to vulnerable children and youth and their families,” says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Frontline workers provide the stability and safety the children and youth need. It’s not credible that Kinark can’t match or approximate what other agencies with the same funding sources are doing.”
Local 355 president Shannon Van Dyk says Kinark argues the province’s wage freeze applies to the workers, which it doesn’t. And, she says, the company raised salaries for their high earners, contrary to the wage restraints.
“In 2011, 18 Kinark managers and directors earned more than $100,000, up from 16 in 2010. One of them is at the bargaining table telling us Kinark can’t negotiate ‘compensation increases’ for our members, who earn $39,000 to $57,000 per year,” she says.
The union bargaining committee will ask the members for a strike mandate if conciliation fails.
Local 355 members will hold an information picket starting at 9 a.m., Friday, April 27 in front of the Kinark office, 34 Simcoe St., Barrie.
Denise Near, OPSEU Staff Representative