TORONTO, Feb. 15, 2013 /CNW/ - Angered and frustrated by management's
outright refusal to bargain a fair and reasonable collective agreement,
70 workers at the Homes First Society are set to walk off the job Feb.
"The arrogance displayed by this employer is disgraceful," said OPSEU
President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "The workers of Local 540 need to
know they have the full support and resources of our union behind them
every step of the way."
OPSEU filed notice with the employer yesterday that it is set to strike
effective 8 a.m. on Monday, and the union has filed a bargaining in bad
faith application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
"There's a bitter irony that our members will be setting up picket lines
on Family Day," said Kathleen Demareski, a negotiator for the union.
"These hard-working people are already earning a very modest wage but
who find themselves bullied by a hostile employer. It's a measure of
their anger that they've elected to withdraw their services."
Despite receiving more than $6 million in annual funding from the City
of Toronto, labour relations at Homes First have been toxic for years.
Grievances have been filed about employee mistreatment and human rights
violations and, most recently, management hired security guards at four
locations in a defiant act of intimidation. Outside replacement workers
have been hired even though they only duplicate the work of regular
The union is calling on Toronto city council to take action by directing
management to return to the bargaining table. Eight city councillors
have a Homes First location in their ward but, to date, none have taken
action on behalf of the clients or staff at the housing agency. Homes
First has been riddled with accusations of financial mismanagement for
years, which includes the creation of several new management positions
and for giving managers raises and increased benefits. The
publicly-funded agency also refuses to open its books to public
"It's time city hall stepped in and told the board of directors and
management at Homes First that they get serious about its financial
accountability and bargaining a fair contract," said Demareski. "We are
disappointed that the eight councillors haven't been more vocal about
the poisonous employment conditions and management's refusal to bargain
in good faith. We encourage them to visit, unannounced, at these
Homes First employees work with more than 500 low-income tenants in
shelters and homes in an effort to secure them with permanent housing.
For further information:
Kathleen Demareski, OPSEU Negotiator 416-443-8888 ext. 2484