After considerable negotiations, a settlement has been reached in a labour dispute involving staff at Closing the Gap in St. Thomas.
On May 2, a final offer from the employer was presented to OPSEU members who unanimously turned down the deal.
The outstanding issue remained wages, with Closing the Gap earning, on average, $165 per client visit while paying their employees $46 to $48 per visit, some of those lasting almost two hours.
Lynne Easter, staff representative at the OPSEU London Regional Office, confirmed Wednesday (June 27) “We reached a deal . . . and it was ratified by the membership on Monday (June 25).”
The deal was reached through mediation and members “voted overwhelmingly in favour. The reality is nobody wanted a strike. And, given the current political climate, under the newly elected government, public servants are fearful in terms of anyone working for a public dollar is conscientious of that. You really don’t want labour unrest.”
Closing the Gap is a healthcare provider offering services in homes, schools, workplaces, long-term care homes, hospitals, and clinics across Ontario.
Easter continued, “I’m going to continue to hammer my local politicians about the whole issue of the fact this is a privatised service and it’s going into profits much like hydro.
“It’s certainly our position this should be brought back into the public hands and managed by the Local Health Integration Network.”
It is a three-year contract that expires March 31, 2020.
“We got a 6.7 per cent per visit increase, so that’s not necessarily a wage increase because they are paid based on a visit and that can be about two hours of work.
“The biggest thing is we got a time-sensitive process to try to deal with the inequities around vacation time. There are some violations, in terms of they are violating the collective agreement and the Employment Standards Act in terms of how they pay out vacation pay.
“That concerns us and we now have a process in place to try to deal with some of those issues.”
Management has to meet with the bargaining team by the end of September, according to Easter, and then they have 60 days to deal with it.
Should both sides fail to come to an agreement, the matter would go to arbitration.
CONTINUE THE HUNT FOR HONESTY
Well earned and it has a great ring to it: MPP Jeff Yurek, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. The only surprise in Doug Ford’s cabinet announcement is the fact Yurek had been the PC health critic.
In any event, to those who say he has no connection with that portfolio, don’t forget it was Yurek who, this March, introduced a private members bill to shine a light on how funds in a Ministry of Natural Resources special purpose account are spent.
The fund was initially established by the provincial Tories in 1997, explained Yurek, “as a way of expanding licences across the province, but also letting the hunters and anglers have a say in how resource management should be done.”
Yurek spent seven years working with the Aylmer Stakeholders Group, representing landowners and farmers, to have the provincial Liberals tighten up spending requirements for the fund, which collects $75 million annually in licensing fees from hunters and anglers.
He accused the Wynn government of diverting money from the special account to fund the operating expenses of the ministry.
When his bill was defeated, Yurek noted “The Liberals are saying there is no problem at all. They are not that transparent a government anyhow. In our original platform document, we committed to making it transparent to ensure the funds were 100 per cent spent on fish and wildlife.”
Undeterred by his bill’s setback Yurek said, “I’ve been on this for seven years and I’m not giving up until they fix this situation.”
He has just been presented a golden opportunity.
ON TRIAL: THE RIGHT TO KNOW
It’s a hot-button issue right now, what with fake news and attempts to discredit the free press. We look upon it as a keystone issue south of the border, however it is playing out right in our backyard.
Aylmer Express publisher John Hueston and his son, Brett, have been charged by Elgin OPP with obstruction in relation to an incident last June near Port Bruce. They were attempting to do their job and report on a vehicle that allegedly had driven over a cliff into Lake Erie.
For their efforts, they were arrested, handcuffed and put in the back of a cruiser.
Oh, and two cameras were confiscated and not returned for a period of nine months.
An attempt to put the publication out of business? Not a very clear understanding of the Hueston’s will and resources.
The trial was scheduled to play out this past Wednesday at the Elgin County Courthouse, however previously undisclosed notes from an investigating officer surfaced and the case has now been moved back to Aug. 15.
It’s an issue of the public’s right to know, and John Hueston has plenty of support from across the county, including the backing of the Canadian Association of Journalists.
When arrested on that road near Port Bruce, John Hueston noted the matter of attempting to do what the small town paper does extremely well was now being challenged one week before this country’s 150th birthday.
Robert Kennedy concisely put the public’s right to know into perspective when he noted, “No one needs to tell me about the importance of the free press in a democratic society or about the essential role a newspaper can play in its community.”
As a follow-up to last week’s item on adhering to regulations at Early Learning Centres in St. Thomas, we attempted to obtain comments from former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers.
She responded, via email, that because the matter is before the courts, legal counsel advised her to refrain from doing so.
We did ask her why she had been suspended by the College of Early Childhood Educators for failure to provide information and she explained, “I didn’t submit a change form to inform them I was no longer working for ELC. It is a 30 day requirement and I was off by a few days. Thank you for informing me.”
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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