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Strikers won’t give employer ‘a blank cheque’ - Spencer Lucas

Re: Article “Strike impacting kids’ mental health services,” which appeared in the Nov. 24 editions of Northern Life. The membership of OPSEU Local 666 is currently on strike in a labour dispute with the Sudbury Child and Family Centre (CFC).
Re: Article “Strike impacting kids’ mental health services,” which appeared in the Nov. 24 editions of Northern Life.

The membership of OPSEU Local 666 is currently on strike in a labour dispute with the Sudbury Child and Family Centre (CFC).

CFC has offices in Chapleau, Little Current, Espanola and Greater Sudbury, and provides mental health services to over 2,300 children, teens and families. We work individually with children and families and in partnership with schools, pediatricians, family doctors, child psychiatrists, Children’s Aid, the courts, and many other community services.

Two major issues leading to the impasse in bargaining are hours of work and job security.
Early in the strike, the employer misled the public on one of the key issues, and suggested that the employees are not being client responsive by not providing extended hours of work.

This is simply not true. We currently provide a great deal of flexibility within our schedule, which includes after hours work at no additional cost to the employer. We see clients as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 10 p.m. in various settings.

The employer is not willing to share the plan for extended hours, and wants to introduce a new article in our collective agreement that will give the carte blanche to make major changes without consultation and with veto power over other articles of the collective agreement.

This is a serious concern for union members. In the past, the employer has ignored warnings from the union about expansion of programs, which led to a massive deficit and staff layoffs.
Indeed, union membership has decreased from 130 to 83.

It is worth stressing that the deficit increased from minimal to what the employer reported as a “financial crisis.”

Moreover, in 2009, the union membership agreed to five days off without pay, which is nearly a two per cent pay cut, to address the deficit and to avoid layoffs and program closures which occurred anyway.

The current offer essentially would mean that we have accepted a five year pay freeze. Meanwhile, the salary of the executive director has made the sunshine list, and has increased by approximately 45 per cent since 2005.

The decision taken by members of OPSEU local 666 to be on strike was not easy. The employer refused to negotiate, even in the presence of the mediator Nov. 18, leading to a strike for the first time ever in CFC history.

OPSEU Local 666 wants to get back to the bargaining table, but we are not prepared for our collective agreement to be a blank cheque. We want to bargain in good faith, but not blind faith. The children and families we serve deserve better.

Spencer Lucas
chair of the OPSEU Local 666 strike communications committee

Posted by Vivian Scinto



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