Unionized workers to rally in Wallaceburg over poor working conditions

Union workers frustrated with poor working conditions plan to hold a rally in Fort Wallace on Wednesday.

The collective agreement between OPSEU/SEFPO Local 150 and Community Living Wallaceburg expires on December 31, 2021. Bargaining team members have since said they have failed to reach a collective agreement with the employer.

“We’ve been negotiating and we haven’t got a collective agreement,” said Kim Therrien, chair of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 150. “Staff are burnt out and staff don’t feel like they’re being respected.”

The union said its main problems were staff shortages, no vacation time and the need for employees to continue working after their scheduled shifts.

There are also disagreements over wages, schedules and benefits.

The agency needs to invest in workers, not those at the top of the organization, Therrien said.

“As employees, we deserve better from our employers,” Therrien said. “Where we need more front-line staff, they keep hiring more managers.”

Deborah Hook, executive director of Community Living Wallaceburg, said the agency has made several proposals to address the issues raised.

“We’ve been negotiating with the union since June,” Hook said. “There’s been a lot of back-and-forth conversations about these issues. We’ve brought together and made a number of recommendations to ensure furloughs are available for all staff, enhanced health and safety language in our collective agreements, and fair scheduling.”

Hook pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for the staffing shortage. As a 24-hour facility, some staff will be forced to stay if no replacements emerge, she said.

“We support vulnerable people in our homes, and we need to provide 24/7 care,” Hook said. “The pandemic has made the situation very difficult for everyone, but we as management want to work with the union and staff to find a solution.”

According to Therrien, the union has applied for mediation, a process in which the Labor Department will select an impartial party to facilitate negotiations and help both parties reach a collective agreement.

“We have not set a date for mediation,” Therrien said.

Demos are scheduled for November 16th from 2-5 pm outside Community Living Wallaceburg at 1100 Dufferin Avenue.

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