CUPE strikes back 0
Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (third from right), addresses striking Ontario Works employees outside the county’s administration building Wednesday. For more community photos please visit our website photo gallery at www.thedailyobserver.ca.
Striking Ontario Works employees resurrected picket lines around the County of Renfrew administration building Wednesday as national union leaders lent their voice of support to the seven week old work stoppage.
Although they hoped to demonstrate their resolve to county councillors during their monthly meeting, the workers were disappointed when the session was moved to today.
However, Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), told the strikers they need to hold firm despite the seemingly endless impasse.
"It's absolutely critical that we speak with one voice and say it is not fair to want to take away things from you that hundreds of other county employees enjoy right now," said Mr. Moist, who spoke to not only Ontario Works employees but fellow union members from locals across the county. "We are not giving those things up easily."
Staff members from Ontario Works offices in Pembroke, Killaloe, Renfrew and Arnprior have been on strike since May 11 when negotiations between the union and the county broke down. Their contract expired in December. The union charges the county has removed benefits, in particular long-term and short-term disability, from the contract being offered.
"I know it's hard and people want to go back to work but we want to go back to work under terms and conditions that are fair for us as employees." Mr. Moist explained. "We're staying here until we get a fair collective bargaining agreement."
The union has been called back to the negotiating table for July 3, CUPE Local 4989 staff representative Amy Parker confirmed. Meanwhile, the local released a statement answering comments made by county human resources director Bruce Beakley in the Daily Observer on June 15. They charged that during this time of economic restraint, the county's management and non-unionized full-time staff continue to receive full benefits and a three per cent wage increase for 2012. Ontario Works employees were offered a two per cent increase over the next three years, the local insists. The union is also upset that the county published Ontario Works salaries in the newspaper.
"It is relevant that the two county directors on the negotiating committee who were on the sunshine list received a three per cent raise and no reduction to their benefits," the statement read.
Speaking to the rally, former NDP candidate Brian Dougherty said his party will continue to fight against the privatization of union agreements.
"We'll make sure every worker gets what's right for them, what's fair for them," he said.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist