They have yet to close the gap, but talks continue in an effort to avert a strike in St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile talks continue, no settlement has been reached between OPSEU Local 152, representing 22 health care professionals and Closing the Gap in St. Thomas. Their contract expired on March 31 of last year.
And, those employees could be off the job in a week’s time.
Closing the Gap is a healthcare provider offering services in homes, schools, workplaces, long-term care homes, hospitals, and clinics across Ontario.
On May 2, a final offer from the employer was presented to OPSEU members who unanimously turned down the deal.
The outstanding issue remains 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. Continue reading

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Municipal employees and garbage collection staff should not be at risk of unsuspected jabs . . . neither should the public


city_scope_logo-cmykAt its May 22 meeting, council will be asked to approve an amendment to the Waste Diversion and Curbside Collection bylaw, with regards to used needles.
According to a report from Michelle Shannon, the city’s waste management coordinator, in the past year there have been three incidents of needles found in curbside waste.
Under the current bylaw, used needles are a designated hazardous waste under the Environmental Protection Act and are prohibited from being collected at the curb in the regular waste stream.
Shannon stresses improperly disposed of needles and drug equipment pose a health hazard to the public, garbage collection staff, and municipal employees. Continue reading

Moving forward on revitalization of Alma College property


city_scope_logo-cmykBack in February, city council got a first glimpse of what the Alma College property might look like through the eyes of Michael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities.
He envisions a trio of seven-storey residential towers on the Moore Street property, with one of the structures replicating the front facade of the main building at the site of the former school for girls.
His concept for the property is “to create something interesting and unique . . . something to last for a long time.”
At Monday’s (May 14) meeting council will get a look at how the development would be situated on the 11-acre property and authorize staff to prepare official plan and zoning bylaw amendments to proceed with the project. Continue reading

‘If you are fighting battles internally and fearful of things in your own workplace, it doesn’t make for productive work.’ – Turning the corner at CMHA Elgin?


city_scope_logo-cmykLast October, about two dozen staff at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association stood outside the Centre Street office where they claimed to be working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety.
At that time, OPSEU staff representative Carol Warner asserted St. Thomas employees are consistently targeted and penalized by upper management for speaking up about health, safety and other workplace concerns.
“It’s hideous, it’s a long-standing issue,” noted Warner. “I would say it’s a systemic issue. We have grievances in the docket that are, at a minimum, four or five years old. And the grievance program has flaws as well.”
That information picket by members of OPSEU Local 133 and the allegations of workplace harassment resulted in the appointment of a third-party investigator by the Southwest Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) to report on CMHA Elgin’s compliance with its contractual agreement to the LHIN. Continue reading

Salary review at city hall prompts healthy hike in remuneration for senior staff


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Correction: As noted previously by then police chief Darryl Pinnell, the correct number of members of the St. Thomas Police Service earning in excess of $100,000 in 2016 should have been 46 and not 43, making the overall total for that year 113. The increase then for this year is from 46 members to 49.

A report on the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 is included in Monday’s council agenda. This is required under the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act of 1996.
In total, 117 employees eared more than $100,000, that’s up from 110 in 2016.
Breaking down by sector, 49 members of the St. Thomas Police Service are included, up substantially from 43 in 2016.
At the St. Thomas Fire Department, 46 are on the list and that is down by two from the previous year due to retirements.
In city administration, 22 staffers are listed, up three from 2016.
Most notable is the hefty increase in remuneration for some of the senior staff, while most others saw their salary remain relatively stable from 2016. Continue reading

FTE numbers a ‘slippery slope downward’ at STEGH


city_scope_logo-cmykThey were initially announced two weeks ago and after badgering by the Times-Journal, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital administration is finally being a little more upfront on the extent of measures needed to overcome a $1 million budget shortfall for 2016/17.
Early in February it was announced as many as four full-time jobs could be cut but as many as 11 positions could be impacted through early retirement and attrition.
Hospital president and CEO Paul Collins stressed at the time the job losses won’t directly affect patient care.
How is that possible? Everything the hospital does revolves around patient care. What else is it in business for?
After all, STEGH’s mission statement promises “To deliver an excellent patient care experience . . .”
Notably absent from early discussions with the hospital was any mention of closing the outpatient lab and reducing its gastric diagnostic imaging services from four days a week to two, resulting in reduced part-time hours for medical radiology technologists.
That only surfaced when T-J reporter Jennifer Bieman — acting on information provided by an OPSEU representative — pressed hospital administration for further details on the cutbacks.
That’s the front-page story in  the Feb. 20 edition of the T-J.

Continue reading

2016 city budget “generally preserves” existing service levels to the public


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Deliberations begin 3:30 p.m. Monday into the proposed 2016 capital and operating budgets for St. Thomas.
In his opening remarks contained in the budget binder, director of finance David Aristone indicates at this stage of the process, city ratepayers can anticipate a 2.32% hike in the property tax levy.
The proposed levy for this year is $48,721,653, up from the actual 2015 levy of just over $47 million.
Proposed capital projects this year would require almost $21.8 million in funding. Continue reading