THUNDER BAY - More than 100 employees at a local non-profit that assists people living with developmental disabilities may be walking the picket line by the end of the month.
On Wednesday, OPSEU Local 738 held an information picket outside of the Avenue II office on Cumberland Street to protest what they say are unfair negotiations on the part of management.
According to OPSEU Local 738 president, Silvana Cacciatore, the union was given a no board, meaning management gave a final offer and told the members to take it or leave it.
“The last time we met in August, we had two days to negotiate and after the first day, after five hours and only two passes, the employer came back to us with no board,” Cacciatore said.
The 118 members have been without a contract since Mar. 31, 2016. With management bringing forward a no board, labour disruption could occur as early as Sept. 27 with employees being locked out or taking strike action.
Cacciatore said the union is looking to negotiate three main points, including a wage increase of .45 cents over two years to put them on par with the rest of the sector, management’s demand to withdraw all outstanding grievances, and proposed changes by management to a pilot project for overnight shifts to create flexible work hours.
“If someone had a family, they would have to change their whole schedule at short notice,” Cacciatore said.
None of the members want to strike, Cacciatore said, but the union is ready to take to the picket line, adding there has no meaningful negotiations on the part of management.
“They are saying that they don’t have money and this is the way they want to do it,” Cacciatore said. “She wasn’t willing to look at it. Every time we try to suggest something, she would just bring it back exactly the same. That’s not how it works. You can’t just bring it back exactly the same every time. We are here to negotiate, not just be told how it’s going to be.”
In a written statement, Suzann Doherty, executive director with Avenue II, said the organization is non-project and almost entirely funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
“My hope is that it will raise awareness about the lack of funds in this sector for wages and benefits,” Doherty said in her statement. “The staff work tirelessly to support adults with a developmental disability.”
The bargaining team will meet with management on Sept. 18 and Doherty said she looks forward to working towards an agreement. But Cacciatore and the OPSEU members are not sure if that will be possible.
“If she was so hopeful, why did she call no board?” Cacciatore said. “We’re willing. She’s the one who called no board.”