ELLIOT LAKE, ON, Nov. 20, 2014 /CNW/ - Workers at the Counselling Centre of East Algoma have voted 78 per cent in favour of possible strike action if a first contract with management can't be reached.
Counsellors and support staff at the centre, represented by Local 604 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), voted Nov. 19 after 13 face-to-face bargaining sessions with their employer produced negligible results. The two sides have been in talks for more than eight months.
"Our members have grown weary and frustrated by an employer whose idea of 'negotiating' is to claw back basic rights and entitlements that we previously enjoyed," said Monica Thompson, chair of Local 604's bargaining team. "As a result it's hardly surprising they gave their bargaining team a strong show of support for strike action if the two sides fail to come up with an agreement."
A conciliator joined the talks today in a bid to bring the two sides closer to reaching a settlement. The main issues for the union include improved job security, no contracting-out of services, and improvements to wages and benefits.
While management has played hardball at the bargaining table and has said there is no additional funding available for the workers, the union says that hasn't stopped the employer from finding $30,000 to pay for outside legal services during negotiations.
Local 604 also says that management has taken the position that any improvements to working conditions, like job security, must come from cutbacks in benefits.
"This is an all-too-familiar position by employers faced with negotiating a first contract," said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "I'm proud of our members in Elliot Lake and the stand they've taken with management at the counselling centre. Both sides should understand that Local 604 has the full and hearty support of OPSEU's resources if strike action needs to be taken."
Workers at the Center provide specialized community counselling services to families in conflict, as well as addiction counselling, family violence, sexual assault, problem gambling, daytime crisis response and other general counselling services.
SOURCE: Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
For further information: Monica Thompson, Chair, Bargaining Team, 705-849-6626; Michael Hocevar, OPSEU Staff Representative, 705-541-8504