HAMILTON, ON, June 25, 2018 /CNW/ - During a marathon round of bargaining on June 24, the managers of the Arrell Youth Centre refused to end the nine-week lockout by offering employees decent health coverage, even though they've admitted it's something they can afford to do.
"This isn't bargaining, it's betrayal," said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "Our members went to the table this weekend with cost-saving ideas. But while the CEO enjoys the lavish raises she's given herself, she's stubbornly refusing to get our members back to work and bring vulnerable youth back home to their supports and their families.
"Perhaps the CEO hasn't heard about the Premier-elect's commitment to the 'little guy' and front-line workers," Thomas added. "Arrell's tactics are out of step – $20,000 for the CEO right out of the pockets of front-line workers.
"This is exactly the kind of injustice and impropriety the new Premier needs to get a handle on."
The 60 members of OPSEU Local 216 work at Arrell Youth Centre, a residential detention centre that provides secure custody and services for up to 16 male youth. The members have been without a contract since April 1, 2017.
Throughout bargaining for a new contract, the employer has demanded the members accept a substantial cut to their already modest health coverage, but the members refused. On April 27, 2018, the employer locked the members out and closed the facility, forcing the vulnerable youth to far-away facilities across the province.
"These members keep our communities safe," said Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU's First Vice-President / Treasurer and a Hamilton correctional officer. "It's hard, dangerous work, and they're not even covered by the WSIB.
"I'm disgusted this employer wants to make a bad situation even worse by cutting even deeper into the little bit of health coverage they've got."
The health coverage cuts would cost the members a total of $20,000 a year, roughly the same amount of wage increases that CEO Kim Ciavarella has received since 2015.
The OPSEU members have repeatedly asked the employer to provide information about the health-coverage cuts, but the employer has refused. Several times, the employer has even said that its "ability to pay" is not the issue.
And during bargaining this weekend, the members tabled proposals that could have provided "significant" savings for the employer, but they were rejected.
"There's something about this situation that just doesn't add up," said Len Mancini, the chair of the Local 216 bargaining committee. "How can the employer ask its workers to take a $20,000 pay cut when it's given its CEO a $20,000 pay hike?
"All we want to do is get back to work helping the youth and helping Hamilton," said Mancini. "We're trying to bargain. We're offering cost-savings ideas. But the employer just doesn't seem to care about cost savings, about us, about the youth, or about our communities."
SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
For further information: OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas: 613-329-1931; OPSEU Local 216 Arrell Youth Centre bargaining chair Len Mancini: 905-317-9366