Strike pending for local youth services workers
London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
More than 100 youth receiving mental health treatment and care from a local agency may go without if its employees take to the picket line later this month.
The approximately 120 Craigwood Youth Services employees have been without a contract for two years. After failed attempts to negotiate a new agreement with the employer, the workers — who are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) — say they’ve hit a brick wall and are prepared to take action.
“We do not want to (strike), but it made it easy to walk away from the table … because the employer refused to take items off that were non-negotiable,” said Jonathan Guider, member of OPSEU’s bargaining committee.
The main points of contention for union members are the employer is asking for a zero per cent pay increase over four years and is attempting to negotiate against pay equity increases that were awarded to the workers about six years ago.
“We’re out pay equity money all the way back to 2006 and that’s one per cent added on each year,” Guider said. He clarified employees were supposed to see that increase in pay annually, but haven’t.
“They’re behind in their pay equity obligations and we’re not supposed to be bargaining it; it’s already an award.”
Guider argued that while recently the employer retroactively paid out past-due equity payments from 2008 to present, there’s still a couple of years owed to Craigwood’s employees. This would total around $4,000 for each worker.
As for zero-per-cent salary increases over four years, Guider said OPSEU members are both “upset and offended” with that offer.
“Our members were prepared to take two years of zeros — the wage freeze that’s being pushed on all of the public servants,” he said.
A four-year wage freeze, however, is out of the question.
Mick Chalmers, another OPSEU bargaining committee member, added the employees are already struggling financially.
“Some of the same excuses that he (the employer) gives us as to why he can’t afford to give us any sort of increase in pay is when he talks about how the agency’s cost of living continues to go up,” Chalmers said. “We’ve got 100 or so members who are facing the exact same increases every day and we’re struggling.”
Additionally, changes to the complaint process are also being tabled by the employer, but are considered non-negotiable items by the union.
Unless a “reasonable offer” is made during an upcoming mediation session on Aug. 15, Craigwood staff will be seen marching out front of the agency’s facilities, picket signs in hand.
The agency’s executive director, Lothar Liehmann, couldn’t be reached for comment.